A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Relationship between Optimism and Subjective Well-Being in Japan and the United States



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Dispositional optimism is robustly associated with positive mental health outcomes such as greater subjective well-being. The relationship between optimism and subjective well-being may be mediated by positive control strategies. However, it is unclear whether the benefits and mechanisms of optimism are consistent across cultures. Differences in the use of primary and secondary control strategies between Western and East Asian cultures may influence the relationship between optimism and subjective well-being. The current study used data from the nationally representative Midlife in the US study and the Midlife in Japan study to explore the relationship between optimism and subjective well-being in these populations. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate, 1) measurement invariance of scales 2) differences in levels of optimism across cultures, 3) the strength of the relationship between optimism and subjective well-being across Japanese and American cultures, and 4) mechanisms underlying the relationship between optimism and well-being across cultures. Americans showed greater optimism and less pessimism than Japanese adults. Levels of optimism and pessimism explained a large amount of variance in subjective well-being in both samples, though greater optimism was a stronger predictor of greater subjective well-being than lower levels of pessimism. Relationships between optimism, pessimism, and control strategies were inconsistent across cultures, and the results did not provide support for the role of control strategies as mechanisms underlying these relationships. While the two-factor structure of the LOT-R demonstrated partial weak invariance, the control scales did not show evidence of configural invariance. Thus, while the relationships between optimism, pessimism, and subjective well-being were consistent across cultures, results associated with control strategies cannot confidently be interpreted.



Optimism, Subjective well-being, Cross-cultural research, Measurement invariance, Control strategies