Research Paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 995-1014

First online:

Self-Related and Other-Related Pathways to Subjective Well-Being in Japan and the United States

  • Sheida NovinAffiliated withResearch Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • , Ivy F. TsoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Michigan
  • , Sara H. KonrathAffiliated withResearch Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, University of MichiganPsychiatry Department, University of Rochester Medical Center Email author 

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Cross-cultural comparisons demonstrate that subjective well-being (SWB) is rated lower among East Asian than Western individuals. Regardless of such cultural differences, however, factors that predict SWB among people from various cultures may be similar. In the current study we demonstrate the universality of two potential pathways to SWB: those which are more self-related (e.g., independent self-construal; personal expression of emotions), and those which are more other-related (e.g., interdependent self-construal; giving social support to others). Using the MIDUS II and the MIDJA datasets, we find that even though American older adults (N = 1,248) report higher levels of SWB, emotional expression, and social support provision than their Japanese counterparts (N = 1,010), there are similar influences of both self and other-related pathways on SWB. Specifically, emotional expression and social support provision contribute equally to SWB in both groups. Moreover, structural equation models revealed that in both cultural groups, independent self-construal has a direct positive effect on SWB, but also indirectly predicts SWB via increased emotional expression and giving support to others. Interdependent self-construal also has a positive effect on SWB. However, it indirectly has both a positive effect (through giving more support to others) and a negative effect (through less emotional expression) on SWB. These findings were nearly identical across cultures, except that Americans showed a stronger positive relationship between independent self-construal and emotional expression, and Japanese showed a stronger positive relation between independence and giving social support. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.


Subjective well-being Emotion Support Self-construal Culture Individualism Collectivism