In China, People Are Stressed Yet Happy

Our newest study offers a view of how Chinese people feel about the world, and how they differ from their global peers.

How do people in China feel about the state of the world? What worries them – and what makes them happy?

Our newly launched study, The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience, surveyed over 28,000 people in 30 countries to give an unprecedented view of the attitudes of people ages 6 to 54 around the world and their outlooks on life. The project included nearly 1,000 respondents in China. Here are some key insights on how Chinese people feel about safety, stress and happiness:

People in China feel more stressed than elsewhere – yet they’re just as happy. About half of Chinese respondents said they were stressed out (53%), compared with just a third of people globally (32%). Despite the pressure they’re experiencing, the majority of Chinese people report that they are happy – just like their global peers (79% China, 76% global).

Time well-spent is becoming more fundamental to their happiness than outward success. In 2017, Chinese respondents ranked their main sources of happiness as time with family, time for fun and relaxation, going away on holiday, being successful, having plenty of money, and hanging out with friends. Compared with 2012, “being successful” dropped in the rankings while “time for fun and relaxation” and “going away on holiday” rose to take its place. This change indicates a shift away from materialism and toward experience as a source of happiness.

Success is still really important, though. Chinese respondents want to do well, and they increasingly want to like what they do. Nearly 6 in 10 Chinese respondents (57%) consider having an enjoyable job to be one of the top signs of success in 2017 – up from 48% in 2012. At the same time, being rich is declining as a sign of success (52% in 2012, 37% in 2017). In spite of its decline, wealth is more important in China than elsewhere – they are 32% more likely than their global peers to see it as a sign of success.

They relax by listening to music, connecting with others, getting exercise, and resting. Chinese respondents said they most commonly relieve stress by listening to music and spending time with family and friends (both 55%). Self-care is also important, with 40% taking naps and 40% exercising to calm their nerves. Compared with their global peers, people in China were 60% more likely than people globally to relax by taking walks, running, or playing sports.

Music offers emotional release. Humor helps them get ahead. More than 8 in 10 respondents in China say music inspires them (83%). The same percentage say they like to listen to songs on repeat (83%), and half love to dance when they’re alone in their room (49%).  Laughter has increasingly become a coping mechanism, with 80% in China saying they use humor to achieve things in life. This use of humor was up from 70% in 2012, and considerably above the global average of 66%.