Positive emotions and health depends on cultural context: Study
Washington D.C. [USA], Sep 08 : Positive emotions are often seen as critical aspects of healthy living, but a new research suggests that your emotional and health outcomes may vary by cultural context.The findings showed that experiencing positive emotions is linked with better cardiovascular health in the US but not in Japan.
The results suggested that experiencing frequent positive emotions was associated with healthy lipid profiles for American participants, but there was no evidence of such a link for Japanese participants.
"Our key finding is that positive emotions predict blood-lipid profiles differently across cultures," said Jiah Yoo from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, U.S.
"American adults who experience high levels of positive emotions, such as feeling 'cheerful' and 'extremely happy', are more likely to have healthy blood-lipid profiles, even after accounting for other factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and chronic conditions. However, this was not true for Japanese adults," Yoo added.
The researchers stated that the findings underscore the importance of cultural context for understanding links between emotion and health, something that has been largely ignored in the literature.
"Although some studies have examined cultural differences in links between positive emotions and healthy functioning, this work is novel in that it includes biological measures of health and large representative samples from both countries," Yoo stated.
The fact that positive emotions are conceived of and valued differently across cultures, Yoo along with his colleagues analysed the health benefits in tandem with positive emotions might be specific to Western populations.
"In American cultures, experiencing positive emotions is seen as desirable and is even encouraged via socialisation. But in East Asian cultures, people commonly view positive emotions as having dark sides - they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks," Yoo explained.
The team designed a cross-cultural comparison, examining data from two large representative studies of adults: Midlife in the United States and Midlife in Japan, both funded by the National Institute on Aging.
The data included participants' ratings of how frequently they felt 10 different positive emotions in the previous 30 days and measures of blood lipids, which provided objective data on participants' heart health.
Higher positive emotions were linked with lower BMI and, in turn, healthier lipid profiles among American participants, but not among Japanese participants.
"By demonstrating that the cultural variation in the connection between emotional well-being and physical well-being, our research has wide-ranging relevance among those who seek to promote well-being in the communities and the workplace, including clinicians, executives, and policy makers," Yoo concluded.
The research appears in journal of Psychological Science.