Collectivistic cultures, which promote social harmony over individuality, protect people who are genetically predisposed to depression from experiencing the condition. So says a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which looks at how genes and environment can evolve together.
People living in individualistic cultures such as Western societies are more likely to suffer from a genetic tendency for depression than people in Eastern cultures, despite fewer people carrying the specific ‘depression gene’ being studied, say psychologists Joan Chiao and Katherine Blizinsky from Northwestern University. The research supports the idea that depression can result from both genes and the environment, and an interaction of the two.
The support offered by a collectivist attitude, “seems to buffer vulnerable individuals from the environmental risks or stressors that serve as triggers to depressive episodes,” argues Chiao.