Multicultural Studies; November 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Horgan; 2 Page(s)
Over the past few decades, scientists have drifted toward an increasingly hard-wired model of the human psyche. A recent article in Newsweek reflected this trend. Studies of identical twins, the magazine reported, suggest that happiness stems almost entirely from nature rather than nurture; our mood depends more on our genes than on our love lives, careers or other circumstances.
Or other circumstances. But a new international survey indicates that cultural influences may play a large role in triggering the most common mood disorder, depression. The study, in which 17 researchers gathered data on 38,000 subjects from 10 countries, found that rates of major depression in different countries varied by a factor of more than 10. The results "suggest that cultural differences or different risk factors may affect the expression of the disorder," the group concludes in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The lead author of the study, the largest of its kind ever conducted, is Myrna M. Weissman, a psychologist at Columbia University. After she supervised a large survey of depression in the U.S. in the 1980s, researchers in other countries independently started similar projects. Weissman realized several years ago that these studies "would be a great opportunity for a cross-national comparison." Previously, such comparisons have been complicated by the fact that investigators from different countries employed divergent methodologies.