Mental Health

The pandemic made us nicer – and the change might be lasting

The adversity of the pandemic forced people to pull together.

The adversity of the pandemic forced people to pull together. Image: Pexels/RODNAE Productions

Cassie Werber
Writer, Quartz Africa
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Mental Health?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Mental Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Mental Health

  • People treated each other better during the pandemic than before it, according to this year’s World Happiness Report.
  • Even in 2022, ‘benevolence’ levels were about a quarter higher than during pre-pandemic years, suggesting the effects are lasting even as COVID-19 becomes less prominent in our lives.
  • The report’s authors say this is likely to support higher happiness levels and has the potential to create a ‘virtuous circle’, making it more likely that we’ll keep being nice to each other.

Is it possible that nations will one day look back upon the global coronavirus pandemic with fondness?

Despite the obvious misery that the virus inflicted—killing people on a large scale, increasing loneliness and stress, and dividing families—it also appears that people treated one another better during the crisis than before it, according to this year’s World Happiness Report.

The report, a sweeping annual survey, seeks to assess how happy people across the world are—and why. The report is written by a group of experts from several universities, using life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll, which surveys a representative sample of adults from every country.

The report’s discovery this year that deep adversity forced people to pull together may perhaps be unsurprising. But there’s more. In 2022, which, despite ongoing covid-19 cases, can be viewed as the first post-pandemic year, “benevolence” levels were still elevated—about a quarter higher than in pre-pandemic years. It seems the pandemic made us nicer—and we’re still being nicer to each other, even as its effects fade into memory.

Kindness makes everybody happier

Benevolence, as measured by the report’s authors, is made up of several traits and actions, such as the willingness to help others both financially and in other ways. Belief in the benevolence of others, and a willingness to act with kindness towards others, is part of what makes us happy, according to the report.

Have you read?

To measure benevolence, the authors designed surveys that asked people how much money they’d donated to charitable causes, how much of their time they volunteered, and how often they’d helped a stranger over the previous month. To get at the question of how much people believed in the goodness of others, they asked people if they believed their lost wallets would be returned—by a stranger, for example, or a neighbor or the police.

Most such measures leaped higher, globally, during the pandemic. “A striking feature of the benevolence data presented in [the] World Happiness Report 2022 was the sharp increase in the helping of strangers during 2020 and especially 2021, coupled with significant increases in 2021 in both volunteering and donations” compared to the three previous years, the authors wrote.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about fighting pandemics?

But was this just a temporary phenomenon? The results for 2022 show that although benevolent acts did become slightly less frequent than in the previous year, they remained “significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels” in all global regions. And the kindness had consequences. Another recent worldwide study found that the mental health of people was surprisingly resilient during the pandemic—suggesting, perhaps, that kindness helped others bear up in difficult times.

Perhaps, in learning to be kinder during covid-19, we picked up a habit that didn’t just fall away when lockdowns ended and masks disappeared. Overall, the report’s authors suggested, the increase in benevolence is likely to support higher happiness levels. And it has the potential to create a “virtuous circle,” making it more likely—hopefully—that we’ll keep being nice to each other in the future.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Mental HealthCOVID-19
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

'Striking inequities' as global cancer burden grows, and other health stories you need to know this week

Shyam Bishen

February 14, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum