The COVID-19 Outbreak Decreases Residents’ Self-Reported Happiness

32 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2020

See all articles by Hongbo Duan

Hongbo Duan

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) - University of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Zhilin Huang

Huaqiao University

Jie Jiang

Beijing Youth Politics College

Shouyang Wang

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) - Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science

Date Written: June 19, 2020

Abstract

Since erupting at the end of 2019, the COVID-19 outbreak has been the world’s most severe challenge since World War II. This challenge is reflected not only in the observable economic depression, but also in emotional damage (loss of well-being) which has been widely ignored. This paper estimates the effect of the epidemic on the well-being of Chinese residents by capturing the emotions conveyed via massive social media, combined with city-level epidemic data. We also use station-level weather data and spatial geographic distance from the epicenter (Wuhan) to construct instrumental variables to better overcome the endogeneity problems of the estimations. We confirm the significant negative impact of the outbreak on life satisfaction, with an extra 1% of cumulative death cases associated with a 0.54% decrease in expressed happiness. Meanwhile, we find that well-being drops the most in regions with high-level risk of COVID-19, especially for females. Further, happiness in regions with higher or lower income levels are more vulnerable to the effects of the epidemic, while intermediate-level income regions are relatively insensitive. We also found that public announcements regarding the WHO pandemic and city-unlocking significantly affect residents’ sentiment. The interaction between the outbreak and real-time expressed happiness provides an important opportunity for reflection on the current governance policies of epidemic containment.

Keywords: Novel coronavirus; Self-reported happiness; Social media; China

JEL Classification: JEL: I18,JEL: D03,JEL: D60

Suggested Citation

Duan, Hongbo and Huang, Zhilin and Jiang, Jie and Wang, Shouyang, The COVID-19 Outbreak Decreases Residents’ Self-Reported Happiness (June 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3686190 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3686190

Hongbo Duan

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) - University of Chinese Academy of Sciences ( email )

Building 7, NO. 80 Zhongguancun Road
Beijing, Beijing 100190
China

Zhilin Huang

Huaqiao University ( email )

Xiamen 361021, Fujian province
China

Jie Jiang (Contact Author)

Beijing Youth Politics College ( email )

China

Shouyang Wang

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) - Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science

Beijing
China

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