Avatar photo

By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Load shedding leading to anxiety and depression which can be fatal, say psychologists

South Africa has faced relentless load shedding which affects everyday life for ordinary South Africans.

Psychologists have warned that load shedding is having an emotional impact on South Africans. The constant power cuts are bound to cause anxiety and depression for many people and can be also be fatal.

South Africa has faced power cuts at unprecedented levels that have affected the everyday life for ordinary South Africans.

Load shedding

Last year, South Africa experienced its worst year of load shedding.

According to The Outlier, January 2022 was the only month last year where there was no load shedding.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa, his government and Eskom try to find a lasting solution to the electricity crisis, South Africans are suffering.

Rotting food in refrigerators, traffic congestion, children unable to do their homework and simply not being able to have a cup of coffee are some of the challenges faced by South Africans on a daily basis as Eskom continues to cut electricity across the country.

The trending hashtag #fedupwithloadshedding on Twitter is a testament that South Africans have had enough.

Watch: What caused South Africa’s energy crisis? 

This video is no longer available.

Psychological impact of load shedding

However, along with the inconvenience of load shedding, South Africans may also be feeling the psychological impact of the blackouts.

Speaking to The Citizen, psychologist Lana Blok said one of the big contributing factors to the increased anxiety is the loss of control that South Africans feel during the power cuts.

“As soon as an individual feels that they don’t have control, anxiety kicks in and if this continues then it may affect depression levels.”

Blok said the impact of heightened anxiety and depression can be fatal, especially when it is compounded by other personal challenges and issues.

“Whatever the causes of anxiety and depression, at any point it could lead to [suicide]. I would think that if that’s the case, there is much more going on with the individual than just load shedding.”

ALSO READ: Expect stage 8 this winter: 59% of Eskom’s coal fleet is unavailable

Mother’s challenges during load shedding

The Citizen spoke to a mother from Lenasia South about her daily struggles with load shedding.

The woman, who has two young boys and asked to remain anonymous, said the power cuts have had a huge impact on her life.

She said having no electricity affects many aspects of her life such as preparing meals for her family, cleaning her home, helping her children with their homework and having to endure increased traffic jams.

“I am so frustrated with this load shedding. I leave home to go to work with no lights. I cannot have tea or coffee and I when come back home, there are no bloody lights either.

“I have to cook for my kids when they come from school and they are hungry, and when hubby comes back from work I only have half an hour to cook something. I find myself spending so much money on takeaways because of load shedding,” she said.


The mother, who is a teacher, said Eskom’s erratic load shedding schedule is also frustrating.

“What irritates me is that the times, hours keep changing. Sometimes it is two hours, other times four hours. It’s ridiculous, you cannot plan your day.

“Being a working mom, having to see to kids go to school, going to extracurricular activities afterwards takes its toll. Even the washing piles up,“ she added.

She said the power cuts have also had an impact on her household appliances.

“My fridge packed up and it started leaking and we had to buy another one to replace it because of the whole on-and-off situation. All our appliances are going through that. My mom had to replace two of her garage door motors. Both of them packed up because of this stupid load shedding.

“The funny thing is that, although it’s load shedding and we don’t have electricity for sometimes up to nine hours with the different stages, our electricity bill is the same,” she said angrily.

Load shedding can be fatal

Senior counsellor at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), Janine Shamos, told The Citizen load shedding can have fatal consequences.

“It’s very important to actually acknowledge that load shedding has more than just a physical impact. We know that medically it’s a serious problem. I have an aunt who’s on oxygen, so when her power goes out, it literally becomes a matter of life and death if it’s out for too long.

“People with kids or loved ones on medication that needs to be refrigerated, all of that kind of stuff is a very big health issue,” Shamos said.

Shamos said load shedding also instills fear in a country with a soaring crime rate.

“A fear of maybe living alone and suddenly you are completely unprotected at 3 o’clock in the morning because your alarm’s gone off, your gates are no longer working and you can’t find your way around the house.”

Mental health

Shamos said there are not enough discussions on the mental health impact of load shedding.

“It’s a fear situation. We feel very out of control, because we are very out of control. We can’t control the power grids and the information that’s being given to us at the moment.

“We are very much being controlled by a system that we don’t entirely trust and that has become a very big issue with people as well. In addition we have that sense of loneliness and can we trust where we are, and the fear of ‘I’m going to wake up in the dark and there’s nothing I can do about it’.

“Light for us is more than just light. It is control, a sense of power, a sense of knowing where I am going and can manage my day and exert control over my space, even if my space is small and uncertain to begin with,” Shamos said.

She said load shedding can even affect those who never had mental issues before.

“For people who don’t suffer generally from massive anxiety or from depressive or mood illnesses, this could certainly affect how we start viewing the world. The minute our view of the world and our life changes, that can definitely feed into a sense of worthlessness and helplessness and that can certainly impact your mental health status.”

Mitigating the impact of load shedding

Shamos said to mitigate the impact of load shedding on mental wellbeing, South Africans should open up about what they’re feeling.

“We can almost learn to give up control of light and dark, use each other, chat about what you are feeling. What are your coping skills, what are your stresses right now, because we do hide a lot of what we are really feeling and cover it with jokes and humour and we get stuck on our own and how we are going to cope with it.

“But when you open up and admit this is my real struggle, we suddenly realise that people are going through similar struggles, but maybe have very different solutions or coping skills that may or may not work for us, but certainly can act as a springboard for changing the way we think about it,” Shamos said.


Both Blok and Shamos agree that South Africans have become resilient since Covid-19 and load shedding is another storm that can be weathered by reaching out to others who may have the solutions that you are looking for.

They also urged parents to constantly reassure and comfort children who may not be old enough to understand the technicalities of load shedding and the impact it can have on people’s lives.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Eskom a ‘feeding trough’ for ANC – De Ruyter

Read more on these topics

Crime Eskom mental health Rolling blackouts

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits