Research reveals positive emotions and psychological well-being play a role in our physical and mental health.

Positive emotions help us to be more resilient and mediate our ability to cope with stress and manage mental health concerns.

Simply put, being happy can actually lead us to be healthier and live longer.

(he majority of these studies are based on Western (middle-class European American) samples, however, and haven’t revealed clear insight about how culture plays a role in this process.

I wrote a previous article exploring how important the context and situation is to the value of positive emotions, and it’s not necessarily one size fits all.

A further research study I came across applies this same notion to the construct of culture, and asks if positive emotions are just as positive culture to culture?

Researchers surveyed over 600 European-, immigrant Asian-, and Asian American college students exploring the relationship between positive emotions and depression symptoms.

What did the research reveal?

Basically, positive emotions provided a buffer against mental health concerns for the European and Asian American population but did not significantly alter depression symptoms for immigrant Asians.

Overall, for all cultures an increase in negative emotions related to increases in depression. However, increase in positive emotions didn’t have the same impact across cultures.

Just as there is evidence that mental health concerns are shaped by social context, so to is the impact of positive emotions influenced by culture and social context.

There may be different social norms and numerous connotations for positive emotions across cultures.

So, as a practitioner or someone personally looking to develop greater happiness, it’s important we recognize that there are different predictors and implication of our emotions depending on our sociocultural development.

There are two things in particular this research emphasizes.

1. Positive emotions are not necessarily just the opposite of negative emotions, but are more of a distinct dimension of mental affect.

2. It emphasizes the negativity-bias where negative emotions overshadow positive emotions, and that negative feelings will influence our mental health in a harmful manner.

The major reason I find positive psychology fascinating is because we can learn to apply the study of positive emotions, strengths and virtues to our personal lives and hopefully live a more full, meaningful, and thriving life.

We are all unique individuals, however, with varies beliefs, expectations, and interpretations of the world around us.

Our culture and socialization may lead us to develop a diverging interpretation of emotions, and what may be considered a “positive” emotion for one person may not necessarily elicit the same benefit for another.

When examining mental and emotional health it’s clear that environment and culture has an influence on the development of psychopathology, so when exploring positive emotions and optimal mental health, a biopsychosocial model is also prudent.

We want to consider social expectations and cultural diversity when exploring interventions and how we can become happier and live a more joy-filled life.

Photo credit: Blueberry87


Leu, J., Wang, J., & Koo, K. (2011). Are Positive Emotions Just as “Positive” Across Cultures? Emotions, 11 (4), 994-999.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 2 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


Shake Off the Grind (November 6, 2011)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (November 6, 2011)

Vivian Martin (November 6, 2011)

Mental Health Social (November 6, 2011)

Marlita H (November 6, 2011)

Vivian Martin (November 7, 2011)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (November 7, 2011)

From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: November 8, 2011 | World of Psychology (November 8, 2011)

NAMI Massachusetts (November 10, 2011)

Deborah McNelis (November 10, 2011)

[BLOCKED BY STBV] (November 19, 2011)

    Last reviewed: 6 Nov 2011

APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Does the Impact of Positive Emotions Differ Across Cultures?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Char: JW I hope you’re still here to see this. My mom wrote gospel songs and spent over 30 years hoping and...
  • Sad: I hope the same
  • Oakley Twoface: Real fashion is a culture, a culture for the public is getting more recognition. It is an art, which...
  • anonymous: my boyfriend sometimes does not communicate with me, when i call him he does not receive my call, i text...
  • Hermes Evelyne Bag: Every one of Ed Miliband’s pledges from his speech yesterday has popular public support,...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!