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Differences in Compassion, Well-being, and Social Anxiety Between Japan and the USA

  • Kohki Arimitsu
  • Hidefumi Hitokoto
  • Shelley Kind
  • Stefan G. Hofmann


Research has shown that self-compassion can improve individual well-being in many cultures; however, little research has examined cultural differences regarding compassion for others and individual well-being. Cross-cultural research has indicated that interdependent happiness and taijin kyofusho (TKS) (other-focused social anxiety) are aspects of well-being and psychopathology, respectively, related to interdependent (i.e., collectivistic) cultures such as Japan. First, we hypothesized that self-compassion would foster greater positive affect and satisfaction with life and less negative affect and social anxiety in the USA than in Japan. Our second hypothesis was that compassion for others would be associated with greater interdependent happiness, and with less TKS symptoms, in Japan compared with the USA. Through a web-based survey of Japanese and American adults, we found that self-compassion was related to positive and negative affect, social anxiety disorder and TKS symptoms, and well-being in both countries. Compassion for others was found to be associated with increased positive affect and decreased TKS symptoms across both cultures. Simple slope tests revealed that self-compassion had a stronger relation with positive affect among US adults than their Japanese counterparts, whereas compassion for others was related to interdependent happiness only in Japan. These findings suggest that the link between compassion, well-being, and psychopathology might be universal, although the effects of the two types of compassion have different patterns between the two cultures.


Culture Compassion Affect Well-being Social anxiety Taijin kyofusho 


Author Contributions

KA: designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. HH: collaborated with the design, assisting with the data analyses, and editing of the final manuscript. SK and SH: collaborated with the design and editing of the final manuscript.

Funding Information

This research was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), awarded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) (Numbers 25380944 and 17K04453) and a Special Research Program of Komazawa University 2016 to the first author. Dr. Hofmann receives financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (as part of the Humboldt Prize), NIH/NCCIH (R01AT007257), NIH/NIMH (R01MH099021, U01MH108168), and the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Initiative in Understanding Human Cognition – Special Initiative. He receives compensation for his work as editor from SpringerNature and the Association for Psychological Science, and as an advisor from the Palo Alto Health Sciences and for his work as a Subject Matter Expert from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and SilverCloud Health, Inc. He also receives royalties and payments for his editorial work from various publishers.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the present study were approved by the ethical committee of Boston University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesKwansei Gakuin UniversityNishinomiyaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Culture, Faculty of HumanitiesFukuoka UniversityFukuoka cityJapan
  3. 3.Suffolk UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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