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Cultural contributions to adults' self-rated mental health problems and strengths: 7 culture clusters, 28 societies, 16 906 adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2023

William E. Copeland*
University of Vermont, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Masha Y. Ivanova
University of Vermont, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Thomas M. Achenbach
University of Vermont, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Lori V. Turner
University of Vermont, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Guangyu Tong
Yale University, 135 College St, New Haven, CT 06510, USA
Adelina Ahmeti-Pronaj
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Clinical Center of Kosova, 10000 Prishtine, Kosova
Alma Au
Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Monica Bellina
Department of Child Psychiatry, Eugenio Medea Scientific Institute, 7 Padiglione, Via Don Luigi Monza 20, Bosisio Parini, Lecco 23842, Italy
J. Carlos Caldas
Departamento de Ciências Sociais e do Comportamento, Instituto Superior de Ciências da Saúde – Norte, Rua Central de Gandra, 1317, 4585-116 Gandra, PRD, Portugal
Yi-Chuen Chen
Department of Psychology, National Chung Cheng University, 168 University Road, Min-Hsiung, Chia-Yi 62102, Taiwan
Ladislav Csemy
Prague Psychiatric Centre, Laboratory of Social Psychiatry, Ustavni 91, 181 03 Praha 8, Prague, Czech Republic
Marina M. da Rocha
University Paulista (Unip), Institute of Human Sciences, Rua Francisco Bautista, 300, São Paulo, Brazil
Anca Dobrean
Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Babes-Bolyai University, 400015, Rupublicii st. 37, Cluj Napoca, Romania
Lourdes Ezpeleta
Departament de Psicologia Clinica i de la Salut, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Edifici B, Bellaterra 08193, Spain
Yasuko Funabiki
Department of Psychiatry, Kyoto University Hospital, 54 Kawaharacho, Shogoin, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Valerie S. Harder
University of Vermont, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Felipe Lecannelier
Faculty of Medical Sciences, Universidad de Santiago, Santiago, Chile
Marie Leiner de la Cabada
Department of Pediatrics, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, P. O. Box 43091 Lubbock, Texas 79409, USA
Patrick Leung
Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Room 356, Sino Building, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China
Jianghong Liu
School of Nursing and Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 418 Curie Blvd., Room 426, Claire M. Fagin Hall, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Safia Mahr
Departement de Psychologie, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense, Laboratoire EVACLIPSY, Batiment C, 3e Etage, Salles C.319 & C.321, 200 Avenue de la Republique, Nanterre 92001, France
Sergey Malykh
Psychological Institute of Russian Academy of Education, Mokhovaya str, 9/4, Moscow 125009, Russia
Jasminka Markovic
Medical Faculty Novi Sad, University of Novi Sad, Clinical Center of Vojvodina, Hajduk Veljkova 1, Novi Sad 21000, Serbia
David M. Ndetei
Africa Mental Health Foundation, P.O. Box 48423-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Kyung Ja Oh
Department of Psychology, Yonsei University, 50 Yonsei-ro, Soedaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Jean-Michel Petot
Departement de Psychologie, Université de Paris Ouest, Laboratoire EVACLIPSY, Batiment C, 3 Etage, Salles C.319 & C.321, 200 Avenue de la Republique, Nanterre 92001, France
Geylan Riad
Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
Direnc Sakarya
Department of Psychiatry, Ankara University Faculty of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey
Virginia C. Samaniego
Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sandra Sebre
Department of Psychology, University of Latvia, Jurmalas Avenue 74/76, Riga, Latvia LV-1083
Mimoza Shahini
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Clinical Center of Kosova, 10000 Prishtine, Kosova
Edwiges Silvares
University of São Paulo, Instituto de Psicologia, Av. Prof. Mello Moraes 1721, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, Brazil
Roma Simulioniene
Department of Psychology, Klaipeda University, Herkaus Manto str. 84, Klaipeda 92294, Lithuania
Elvisa Sokoli
Department of Psychology, University of Tirana, Tirana, Albania
Joel B. Talcott
Aston Brain Centre, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, UK B4 7ET
Natalia Vazquez
Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tomasz Wolanczyk
Department of Child Psychiatry, Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Ewa Zasepa
The Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education, Room 3609, Szczesliwicka 40, 02-353, Warsaw, Poland
Corresponding author: William E. Copeland; E-mail:



It is unknown how much variation in adult mental health problems is associated with differences between societal/cultural groups, over and above differences between individuals.


To test these relative contributions, a consortium of indigenous researchers collected Adult Self-Report (ASR) ratings from 16 906 18- to 59-year-olds in 28 societies that represented seven culture clusters identified in the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavioral Effectiveness study (e.g. Confucian, Anglo). The ASR is scored on 17 problem scales, plus a personal strengths scale. Hierarchical linear modeling estimated variance accounted for by individual differences (including measurement error), society, and culture cluster. Multi-level analyses of covariance tested age and gender effects.


Across the 17 problem scales, the variance accounted for by individual differences ranged from 80.3% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems to 95.2% for DSM-oriented avoidant personality (mean = 90.7%); by society: 3.2% for DSM-oriented somatic problems to 8.0% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems (mean = 6.3%); and by culture cluster: 0.0% for DSM-oriented avoidant personality to 11.6% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems (mean = 3.0%). For strengths, individual differences accounted for 80.8% of variance, societal differences 10.5%, and cultural differences 8.7%. Age and gender had very small effects.


Overall, adults' self-ratings of mental health problems and strengths were associated much more with individual differences than societal/cultural differences, although this varied across scales. These findings support cross-cultural use of standardized measures to assess mental health problems, but urge caution in assessment of personal strengths.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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