The world has seen some dramatic changes over the last 5 years. How are Saudis responding?

Our recent project The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience spanned 28,600 people aged 6 to 54 across 32 countries, including Saudi Arabia. Here are the key findings from an analysis of Saudi data:

Saudis are content, in spite of growing stress levels. In Saudi Arabia, people were more likely in 2012 to describe themselves as happy (82%) than in 2017 (75%). However, their 2017 happiness level almost matched the global average of 76%. At the same time, those saying they feel stressed rose from 29% in 2012 to 43% in 2017. Their 2017 stress level was also significantly higher than for people globally (32%).

Their main worries are similar to their global peers. Like people globally, Saudis’ top worries are war, terrorism, cybercrime, political extremism and bullying. Concern about terrorism has grown by 68% over the last 5 years (28% in 2012, 47% in 2017). Almost 30% of Saudis said they felt less safe in 2017 – a score that tripled compared to 5 years earlier.

Saudis are adopting new ways of coping with life’s challenges – namely media usage and laughter. Saudis’ top methods for dealing with stress are praying, sleeping, using social media, going for a walk or run, spending time with friends, and watching TV. Humor has also become much more important in their lives over the last 5 years. In 2012, just 26% of Saudis said they use humor to achieve things in life – a figure that more than tripled to 81% in 2017. This sentiment was also much higher than the 2017 global average of 66%. And while prayer remains by far the main method of dealing with stress across age groups, using social media ranked #2 among people over 35 – above talking with friends and sleeping.

The online world is shifting their perceptions and shaping their daily lives. A growing percentage of Saudis believe that having access to the internet has changed the way they think about the world (77% in 2017). Additionally, 93% of Saudis believe that all people should have the right to internet access.

Money is less central to their happiness than 5 years ago. In 2012, Saudis chose “having plenty of money” as the most important source of happiness. Five years later, money dropped to fifth place in this ranking. Saudis’ top sources of happiness in 2017 were being successful in general, spending time with family, faith/religion and going away on holiday.

They’re feeling a rising sense of authenticity, optimism and empowerment. Compared with 2012, Saudis are more likely to say they’re true to the people they’re closest to (86% in 2012, 95% in 2017), that they always look to the positive (84% in 2012, 94% in 2017) and that they feel empowered (61% in 2012, 83% in 2017). Additionally, those feelings of empowerment are shared by both genders (both 83%).

They’ve become more engaged locally – and more interested in the world at large. Virtually all Saudis are active in their communities – a behavior that has grown in recent years (85% in 2012, 91% in 2017). They’re also interested in understanding what’s beyond their borders. The percent who say they’re curious about the world increased from 73% in 2012 to 80% in 2017.