July 22, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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“We have become the most beautiful in the world.”

“We have become the most beautiful in the world.”

It turns out that the pandemic has made us unhappy in many ways. But the health crisis has made us more helpful to others. This is according to the World Happiness Report. “We have become more beautiful in the world because of Corona.”

Barbara Debuscher

Dark times make us gloomy. Studies at home and abroad show that the pandemic has increased stress, depression, and other mental problems, with the virus causing isolation, fear for our health or the health of others, loss of normal working relationships, and massive hostility and insecurity. future.

However, positive effects have already been observed. Banning travel, closed culture houses, restaurants, and remote work, for example, also reduce the pressure to be present and get involved in everything.

A large happiness survey of 9 million people in 150 countries showed how one positive development is clearly visible around the world: While many may have become more unhappy ourselves, the pandemic has made us kinder to others.

This was stated in the recently published World Happiness Report. The researchers analyzed survey results in which people rated their happiness on a scale from zero to ten. Finns are the happiest and Afghans are the happiest.

Overall, we are still struggling with more negative emotions than before the pandemic. But they are decreasing. Layers that were 8 percent higher in 2020 than they were before the virus emerged, will shrink to 3 percent in 2021.

The organization’s employees go to bed without starving in Hasselt.Statue of Moa Karlberg

According to the researchers, this may have something to do with the “marked increase in philanthropy.” Rather, they talk in summarizing their report on the “pandemic of kindness from the corona.” Concretely, people are starting to help others more, doing volunteer work and donating to charities.

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Not illogical

The number of people doing each of these three things has skyrocketed in the shadow of the pandemic. In 2020, there was already an increase, and last year it was even more pronounced. In all, the researchers observed an increase in the three types of ‘charitable’ behavior by about a quarter in 2021 compared to 2017-2019, the largest increase they have seen in ten years of research.

This increase, which is particularly powerful when it comes to helping others, proves that people are indeed responsive to others in need, according to study co-author John Helliwell (University of British Columbia).

Dutch happiness professor Ruut Veenhoven (Erasmus University) answers: “At first glance, it is indeed a surprising result.” “At the same time, it does not make sense that there should be more solidarity in this epidemic because we are all in the same boat because of Corona. This is not the case in the AIDS epidemic, for example.”

Helliwell and other authors of the World Happiness Report also point out that collective trauma can in fact inspire greater good on an individual level. When disaster struck in 2020, everyone was deeply moved by our realization of our own mortality. “You became aware of others who were also incarcerated, and you may have walked your neighborhood more often to see or offer strangers who needed help,” Helliwell says.

And then some kind of infection effect may appear. The more people show, receive, or see more good in themselves, the more others are encouraged to do so and we feel happier. According to the authors, it is possible that people helped others so much in 2020, that this behavior continued more strongly in 2021 and global negative emotions waned.

Because it is well known that when you see more nice people around you, you become more positive towards the world and towards others. This enhances our happiness. “Helping others in need not only brings happiness to those receiving help, but also makes those who help feel better and sets an example for others,” Helliwell said.

The food bank of the non-profit organization Zenith in Antwerp.  Picture of Wouter Van Vooren

The food bank of the non-profit organization Zenith in Antwerp.Picture of Wouter Van Vooren

No explanation

However, according to social psychology professor Alan Van Heel (UGent), it is questionable whether there really is a universal fountain of pure goodness. “It is interesting that prosocial behavior has increased a lot worldwide. However, we do not have a clear explanation for this yet.” “And I would venture to suspect that it is only about altruism. For example, we know from research into volunteering motivation that special benefits such as a good image and the opportunity for pleasant communication come first and foremost with altruism.”

This is why, according to Van Hill, it is also possible that we have helped others more during a pandemic because it makes us feel better about ourselves. “Helping others is known to improve your mood by making you feel useful and a good person,” he says. “Certainly if your usual social contacts and activities are missing and you feel frustrated, helping strangers or participating in a relief campaign in your area can be a perfect replacement for the lost connections that usually boost your mood.”

In any case, the question is whether much of all that kindness will remain after the pandemic. “There was already a trend in the background toward more benevolence, which is typical of societies becoming more complex,” says Veenhoven. “Maybe the corona effect will give a boost to this trend, but this is unpredictable.”