Depression is linked to cultural ideologies
People in collectivist cultures are less likely to develop depression than those in individualistic cultures since collectivism promotes group support and less focus on the self. In other words, the attributes of collectivism act as protective factors for depression.
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Some social psychologists argue that the type of culture plays a significant role in the development of depression. The argument centers around the distinction between individualism and collectivism. People from individualistic cultures such as the United States and Western Europe are more likely to value uniqueness over harmony, expression over agreement, and to define themselves as unique or different from the group. In contrast, people from collectivist cultures, such as Eastern cultures, are more likely to value social harmony over individuality. They are also more likely to endorse behaviors that increase group cohesion and interdependence relative to people in an individualistic culture. Indeed, individuals in collectivist cultures are genetically more vulnerable to developing depression than those in individualist cultures. However, group support present in collectivist communities seem to protect these genetically vulnerable individuals from the environmental stressors that trigger depressive episodes. Another explanation is that people from collectivist cultures are not encouraged to place much importance on personal gratification. Hence, they do not spend time feeling frustrated about their failure to achieve personal success. As a result, the lack of focus on the self can lead to a decrease or absence of the development of depressive episodes. A study by researchers at Northwestern University supports this argument. According to the results of the study, the prevalence of depression is significantly lower in collectivist nations than in individualistic nations. Such a finding is striking since nearly 80% of the population is genetically susceptible to depression in collectivist nations. Overall, this argument claims that collectivism acts as a protective factor for depression.
Cultures differ in their practices as much as they do in their ideologies. For example, people from Eastern cultures tend to regularly practice yoga, meditation, and use herbs. These practices significantly reduce stress and anxiety (which contribute to depression). Therefore, the difference in the prevalence rates of depression between individualistic and collectivist cultures could be explained by the difference in cultural practices. The Northwestern study results do not imply that the difference in the prevalence of depression is due to cultural ideologies. This argument also represents sweeping generalizations only based on cultural dimensions (individualism/collectivism). The role of gender, race, class, and ethnicity should also be considered while explaining depression from a sociocultural perspective. A 2017 study conducted by Russian psychologists found that collectivist orientation increases the impact of stress and neuroticism on depression (in a Russian sample). This evidence highlights the necessity of a more nuanced approach to the study of cultural dimensions by taking into account substantial between-culture differences.
Rejecting the premises