Cultural Consonance and Psychological Well-Being. Estimates Using Longitudinal Data from an Amazonian Society
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Researchers have hypothesized that the degree to which an individual’s actual behavior approximates the culturally valued lifestyle encoded in the dominant cultural model has consequences for physical and mental health. We contribute to this line of research by analyzing data from a longitudinal study composed of five annual surveys (2002–2006 inclusive) of 791 adults in one society of foragers-farmers in the Bolivian Amazon, the Tsimane’. We estimate the association between a standard measure of individual achievement of the cultural model and (a) four indicators of psychological well-being (sadness, anger, fear and happiness) and (b) consumption of four potentially addictive substances (alcohol, cigarette, coca leaves and home-brewed beer) as indicators of stress behavior. After controlling for individual fixed effects, we found a negative association between individual achievement of the cultural model and psychological distress and a positive association between individual achievement of the cultural model and psychological well-being. Only the consumption of commercial alcohol bears the expected negative association with cultural consonance in material lifestyle, probably because the other substances analyzed have cultural values attached. Our work contributes to research on psychological health disparities by showing that a locally defined and culturally specific measure of lifestyle success is associated with psychological health.