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Nedbank Happiness Survey reveals what makes South Africans happy

According to the findings of the Nedbank Happiness Survey, which was undertaken at the end of 2023 by Nedbank in partnership with the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), South Africans generally feel happy and are flourishing.

Based on over 10,000 data points, the Happiness Survey, which is reportedly the largest study of its kind ever conducted in South Africa, delivered an average happiness score on the PERMA model of 4.15 out of 5.

The survey leveraged PERMA – a model that measures five essential components that contribute to human well-being and a sense of flourishing, namely positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

While most participants (over 68%) were found to be ‘flourishing’ or ‘flourishing a lot’, the results also highlighted nuances across different dimensions and demographics.

Cultivating relationships

Relationships emerged as the highest-ranking happiness component, with an average score of 4.25 out of a possible 5, emphasising the importance of time spent with loved ones.

‘The survey results underscore the profound impact of strong and supportive relationships on our overall well-being,’ says Khensani Nobanda, group executive of marketing and corporate affairs at Nedbank, ‘and it’s clear that investing time in cultivating meaningful connections with family and friends is a key driver of happiness for South Africans.’

The components of engagement and meaning followed closely, with average scores of 4.19 and 4.20, respectively.

These findings suggest that South Africans derive a sense of fulfilment from being actively involved in their pursuits and passions and need to feel that their lives have purpose and significance.

Joy, pride, and a sense of accomplishment

The categories of positive emotion and accomplishment received the lowest scores, at 4.01 and 4.05 respectively, with many South Africans feeling that they are not quite meeting their personal and professional goals.

Nobanda highlights that this aspect of the findings suggests an opportunity for initiatives that can help individuals feel more accomplished and successful.

‘While South Africans are generally flourishing, there is room for growth when it comes to experiencing positive emotions and feeling a sense of achievement,’ she notes, ‘and this presents an opportunity for organisations and employers to focus on cultivating environments that foster joy, pride, and a sense of accomplishment.’

What makes South Africans happy?

When asked to define happiness in their own words, participants most frequently mentioned themes related to family, loved ones, connection, and relationships.

Personal achievement and productivity, self-fulfilment and authenticity, financial security, contentment and satisfaction, helping others and making a difference, nature and the outdoors, and experiences were also identified as key contributors to happiness.

The study also uncovered variations across different demographics, with older South Africans and those just entering the workforce reporting lower levels of flourishing, suggesting that age and employment status play crucial roles in how individuals experience happiness.

These findings point to a need for more nuanced support systems that cater to the specific challenges faced by various groups.

‘It’s important that we pay attention to the needs of those who may be struggling to find happiness and fulfilment,’ says Nobanda.

‘By understanding the factors that contribute to lower happiness scores among certain groups, we can work towards developing targeted solutions and support systems to help them thrive.’

Nedbank is a proud National Partner of the NSBC

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