A lot has happened over the last 5 years. How are people in Asia-Pacific countries responding to the world of today?

We asked this question in our recent project The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience, which spanned 28,600 people aged 6 to 54 across 30 countries, including 7 in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines). Here are key Asia-Pacific findings from this study:

They’re more content and optimistic. In Asia-Pacific countries, the percentage of people saying they were happy rose over the last 5 years, from 69% in 2012 to 76% in 2017. This increase was somewhat in contrast to their global peers, who reported similar levels of happiness in both years (77% 2012, 76% 2017). A sense of optimism also grew at a faster pace in Asia-Pacific countries, with a 23% increase in those saying they “always look for the positive” over the last 5 years, compared with an 8% rise globally.

Music and humor alleviate their stress. Nearly 8 in 10 people in Asia-Pacific countries say music inspires them (77%). They’re more likely than their global peers to report that they love listening to the same songs on repeat (81% Asia-Pacific, 77% global). And on top of that, 59% of people in Asia-Pacific countries take it to the next level by dancing alone in their rooms. Laughter is also important – 65% said they use humor to achieve things in life, up from 59% in 2012.

Happiness is more about enjoying the moment, less about outward success. In 2012, people in Asia-Pacific countries defined contentment in terms of time and money. Their top sources of happiness were time with family and friends, being successful, having plenty of money, and time for fun and relaxation. In 2017, there was a shift – time for fun and relaxation, as well as going away on holiday, rose in the rankings as success and money fell. In Asia-Pacific countries today there is a desire to feel and to have experiences that are personally fulfilling.

The online world is helping to shift their views. The percentage of people in the Asia-Pacific region who believe that internet access has changed the way they think about the world has risen from 68% in 2012 to 79% in 2017. Globally, 74% agreed with this statement in 2017.

Rapidly expanding social networks are a source of new perspectives. The average number of total social contacts has risen more than fivefold in the Asia-Pacific region, from 97 in 2012 to 519 in 2017. They also have over 6 times more online “friends” that they’ve never personally met, growing from an average of 19 to 122 over the last 5 years. People in these countries have far more of this type of online acquaintance than people globally, who currently have an average of 87.

There is an increasing openness to self-expression. Globally, the study found that there is stronger support for many rights than in 2012. Over the last 5 years, the rate of growth in support for “standing up for one’s beliefs” grew 5 times faster in Asia-Pacific countries than globally, support for freedom of speech grew 4 times faster, and support for practicing any religion grew at twice the global rate.