Επιδημιολογικές έρευνες συστηματικά βρίσκουν πολύ χαμηλότερα ποσοστά επιπολασμού ζωής για κατάθλιψη και αγχώδη διαταραχή σε πληθυσμούς της Ασίας σε σύγκριση με δυτικές χώρες. Η ερμηνεία των ευρημάτων αυτών αποτελεί ζήτημα συνεχούς debate στις επιστημονικές κοινότητες. Οι ερευνητές της μελέτης που παρατίθεται πιο κάτω επιχειρηματολογούν ότι σημαντικό ρόλο παίζουν οι πολιτισμικές διαφορές στον τρόπο σκέψης και αντίληψης των συναισθημάτων.
- Emotions co-occur. Westerners tend to view happiness and sadness as opposites and therefore as mutually exclusive. In their unbridled pursuit of happiness, they avoid sad feelings at all costs, believing these will diminish their well-being. Easterners, however, are open to experiencing contradictory emotions at the same time. There’s always some sadness on any happy occasion, and some happiness can be found even in the darkest times. Thus, negative experiences are less threatening because they don’t preclude happy feelings.
- Emotions change. Westerners tend to think of emotions as arising from a stable self. If I think of myself as a happy person, then I need to discount any negative experiences as anomalies—not really part of who I am. Likewise, those who suffer from depression often think that’s the way they’ll always feel. Easterners, in contrast, view emotions—as well as the self—as constantly changing. Thus, negative experiences are less threatening because they’re only temporary.
- Emotions arise from context. Unlike Westerners, who view emotions as arising from within themselves, Easterners see emotions as emerging from the situation they’re in. This means that moods can be changed by altering the context, in particular by aligning thoughts and behaviors with the expectations of their social groups. By distancing themselves from their emotions, Easterners are better at regulating them. Thus, negative experiences are less threatening because there’s something you can do about them.