Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 995–1014 | Cite as

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

Research Paper


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 



We gratefully acknowledge grants from the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies and Wake Forest University, The Character Project, via the John Templeton Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Psychiatry DepartmentUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterAnn ArborUSA

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