The Impact of Exogenous Shocks on National Wellbeing. New Zealanders’ Reaction to COVID-19
Rossouw, S; Greyling, T; Morrison, P
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In this paper, we explore the response of an aggregate measure of subjective wellbeing to the arrival and passage of the COVID-19 pandemic in a small, geographically separate economy in the South Pacific. Studies of national wellbeing and emotional responses to infection rates during a pandemic have been rare thus far. While several disciplines offer theoretical priors in the case of individuals, far less attention has been paid to the wellbeing and emotional response at a national level. Our paper contributes to the literature by applying a time-series approach to the relationship between wellbeing, emotions and the passage of a pandemic. As such we contribute to a wider literature on macro responses to exogenous shocks. Our analysis involves the use of a wellbeing index and emotional time-series derived from Big Data in the form of tweets originating within New Zealand. The index captures the daily evaluative mood of the country several weeks before the first domestic case of COVID-19 was recorded until several weeks of no new COVID-19 cases. We find distinct reactions to the pandemic: a initial fall in national wellbeing generated by a decrease in the emotions ‘joy’, ‘anticipation’ and ‘trust’. Following a rapid and severe lockdown designed to limit domestic transmission of the virus national wellbeing recovered relatively quickly. Gaining insight into the wellbeing (happiness) reponse to pandemics at the national level is important because the average level of happiness within countries is known to be associated with a range of economic, social, health and political outcomes.