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Has the Covid-19 pandemic made us kinder to one another?

The Kindness Test, the world’s largest public study of kindness, has found that two-thirds of people believe the Covid-19 pandemic has made people kinder.

An act of kindness is something we can all appreciate.

Whether it’s someone holding a door open for us or offering a friendly smile on our weekly commutes, the idea of a small gesture to make someone else smile is something we can all enjoy, but at times – especially when living in a major city where everyone keeps to themselves – it’s rare to see.

But according to a recent study, two-thirds of people believe the Covid-19 pandemic has made people kinder.

The Kindness Test, the world’s largest public study of kindness, found that even though most people who completed the questionnaire felt that levels of kindness had either remained the same (39%) or declined (36%) during their lifetime, two-thirds thought that the pandemic has made people kinder.

The study, which was launched on BBC Radio 4 and devised by the University of Sussex, was a detailed online questionnaire that ran from 31 August to 4 October 2021. 

More than 60,000 people from 144 countries chose to take part, ranging in age from 18 to 99.

Other findings from the study concluded that all aspects of kindness (being kind, receiving kindness and seeing kindness) were more commonly reported by women.

It also revealed a link between kindness and wellbeing, as people who said they receive, give or notice more acts of kindness also reported higher levels of wellbeing, on average.

In addition, the study found that people who talk to strangers see and receive more kindness, even when taking different personalities into account.

Professor Robin Banerjee, head of the school of psychology at the University of Sussex, says: “Our partnership with the BBC on The Kindness Test has generated tremendous insights into the nature of kindness and the role it plays in our lives.

“Even very small acts of kindness are related to our wellbeing, and the results of The Kindness Test raise important questions for us all about how we can promote kindness in our homes, communities, and workplaces.”

The home, medical settings, the workplace, green spaces and shops were selected as the places people are most likely to see kind acts taking place, while the places selected as least likely to see kindness were the internet, public transport and on the street.

Meanwhile, the most common barriers to kindness were reported to be concerns about kindness being misinterpreted (65.9%), not having enough time (57.5%), use of social media (52.3%), not having the opportunity (42.1%), or kindness being seen as a weakness (27.6%).

Claudia Hammond, visiting professor for the public understanding of psychology at the University of Sussex and presenter of Radio 4’s All In The Mind: The Anatomy Of Kindness, says: “The fact that such a huge number of people chose to give up their time to take part in The Kindness Test shows how much we value it. It’s encouraging to see just how many kind acts people are giving, receiving and noticing every day. I hope this insight into what’s stopping us from being even kinder might help us to find ways to boost kindness even more.”   

Image: Getty

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