Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 186–203 | Cite as

Cultural Consonance and Psychological Well-Being. Estimates Using Longitudinal Data from an Amazonian Society

  • Victoria Reyes-García
  • Clarence C. Gravlee
  • Thomas W. McDade
  • Tomás Huanca
  • William R. Leonard
  • Susan Tanner
Cultural Case Study


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.


Bolivia Cultural consonance Emotions Indigenous peoples Lifestyle incongruity 



This research was funded by grants from the Cultural and Physical Anthropology Programs, National Science Foundation (USA), and the World Bank. The Great Tsimane’ Council approved the study. We obtained consent from participants before enrollment in the study. We thank M. Aguilar, J. Cari, S. Cari, E. Conde, D. Pache, J. Pache, P. Pache, M. Roca and E. Tayo for help with data collection and logistical support and to ICRISAT-Patancheru for provision of office facilities to V.R.-G. Thanks go also to the Gran Consejo Tsimane’ for their continuous support throughout this research project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 1
    • 2
  • Clarence C. Gravlee
    • 3
  • Thomas W. McDade
    • 4
  • Tomás Huanca
    • 5
  • William R. Leonard
    • 4
  • Susan Tanner
    • 6
  1. 1.ICREA and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellatera, BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  5. 5.Tsimane’ Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS)San Borja, BeniBolivia
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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