A character strengths intervention for happiness and depression in Saudi Arabia: A replication of Seligman et al.’s (2005) study.

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Asma Abdullah Basurrah
David O’Sullivan
Jason Seeho Chan


The way to achieve happiness varies across cultures and values regarding the good life are socially constructed. Using one’s Signature Strengths (SS) in a new way for one week has been found to enhance happiness and alleviate depression. This has been validated in Western cultures while it has been under-investigated in the Middle East. Besides, there can be issues of dropout rates in experimental design, where a reminder could act as a guard against this. This study: (1) explored the distribution of character strengths in Saudi Arabia and their link to happiness/depression; and (2) evaluated the effect of ‘using SS for one week’, with or without a reminder. (N = 377) Saudi from the general population (77.5% females), aged 18 - 68 (mean = 28.50, SD = 9.94)completed the Value-In-Action (VIA) survey and were then randomly assigned to one of the two intervention groups (using SS and using SS with reminder) or the control group. Participants completed the Steen Happiness Index and The Beck Depression Inventory pre- and post-intervention. Results showed: (1) the highest strengths were honesty, kindness, fairness, appreciation of beauty, and judgment, while the lowest were self-regulation, zest, humility; (2) strong positive correlations were found between happiness and hope, gratitude, zest, and curiosity, while strong negative correlations were found between depression and zest and hope; (3) all participants, independent of the condition, reported being happier and less depressed (p < .005) post-intervention. The participants who received a reminder reported the highest level of happiness. Such findings provide insights for further research on how this intervention should be tailored to the Middle Eastern culture.

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Basurrah, A. A., O’Sullivan, D., & Chan, J. S. (2021). A character strengths intervention for happiness and depression in Saudi Arabia: A replication of Seligman et al.’s (2005) study . Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 41-72. Retrieved from https://middleeastjournalofpositivepsychology.org/index.php/mejpp/article/view/100
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Author Biographies

Asma Abdullah Basurrah, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia University College Cork, Ireland

Asma Basurrah is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Positive and Coaching Psychology from the University College Cork in Ireland.

David O’Sullivan, University College Cork

School of Applied Psychology, Lecturer

Jason Seeho Chan, University College Cork

School of Applied Psychology, Lecturer


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