Academic fields are rapidly converging to form emerging hybrids with tongue-twisting names such as psychoneuroimmunology. But, Ryff says, integrative work cannot tell the whole story -- or hope to create tailored, individualized interventions -- unless researchers pay heed to the broader cultural context of their work.
A renowned expert on the psychology of aging, Ryff recently demonstrated that human well-being in the U.S. is directly linked with biological markers such as stress cortisol levels and cardiovascular risk. Now, expanding the work through a proposed study called MidLife in Japan (MIDJA), Ryff wants to learn how varied cultures harbor different notions of well-being, and how those notions might interplay with biology.
Well-being, Ryff says, is essentially a measure of how purposefully a person engages with life.
"Psychosocial factors are important everywhere but components of those factors vary in cultures," says Ryff, who has collected preliminary cross-cultural data in collaboration with Japanese researchers. "Even though cultures differ in what they consider the mark of a healthy individual, [we want to show] that different components of well-being will still be linked with biology."
Where independence and individualism are signature features of American culture, Japan has traditionally been a culture of interdependence and filial obligation. Ryff and colleagues from Japan, Stanford University and the University of Michigan plan to survey a large sample of adults in Tokyo to gather extensive socio-demographic and psychosocial information, coupled with mental and physical health asse
Contact: Carol Ryff
University of Wisconsin-Madison