Self-Construal, Social Support, and Loneliness in Japan

Abstract

We examine the effects of self-construal and social support in friendships on loneliness using data from a random sample of residents in Tokyo, Japan. We find that the relationship between interdependent and independent self-construal is not orthogonal, as found by studies in the West, but moderately positive. Net of independence, interdependence significantly and positively predicts perceived social support, but not vice versa. By comparison, neither interdependence nor independence completely absorbs the protective effect of the other on loneliness. Our full models including other variables (e.g. gender, age, and extraversion personality) show that interdependence matters more in explaining perceived social support and loneliness. Moreover, perceived social support partially mediates the negative effect of interdependence on loneliness. We discuss implications of these and other related findings for future research on self-construal and subjective wellbeing across societies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The MIDJA is a sister survey to the National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) (ICPSR 2010). The MIDJA and MIDUS share many instruments to facilitate US-Japan comparisons of various issues, although the MIDJA data were collected for a local sample unlike MIDUS data that were collected for a national sample. Unfortunately, we cannot take advantage of this feature because the loneliness scale was not used in MIDUS.

  2. 2.

    Our preliminary analysis indicated that the attrition of respondents was unrelated to our study variables for the most part. The exceptions are perceived social relationships, marital status and the presence of children. Although there is no significant difference in friend support and friend strain by attrition status, the “stayers” score somewhat higher than “leavers” on the average score of social relationships (5.9 vs. 5.8, p < .05). Married respondents are significantly more likely to complete the follow-up than unmarried respondents, and so are the respondents with children (p < .01). See Appendix Table 5.

  3. 3.

    135 of 1027 respondents to the 2008 MIDJA were excluded from the follow-up survey because their address was invalid, they moved, they were not home at the time of interviewer contact, they had health issues, or they were found to be deceased.

  4. 4.

    Given the gender norm that men should be emotionally strong, men may be more reluctant to admit the feelings of loneliness so easily (Borys and Perlman 1985). Our preliminary analysis show no significant gender difference, however, in loneliness measured as negative affect.

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Correspondence to Hiromi Taniguchi.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 5 Comparison of “Leavers” vs. “Stayers”

Appendix 2

Table 6 Factor analysis for self-construal indicators

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Taniguchi, H., Kaufman, G. Self-Construal, Social Support, and Loneliness in Japan. Applied Research Quality Life 14, 941–960 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9636-x

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Keywords

  • Self-construal
  • Social support
  • Loneliness
  • Japan