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Transcult Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;52(5):616-35. doi: 10.1177/1363461514565850. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

"I felt sad and did not enjoy life": Cultural context and the associations between anhedonia, depressed mood, and momentary emotions.

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Georgetown University
Georgetown University.
Concordia UniversityJewish General Hospital, Montreal, Canada.
Fuller Theological Seminary.


The meanings of "anhedonia" and "depressed mood," the cardinal emotional symptoms of major depression, may be shaped by cultural norms regarding pleasure and sadness. Thirty-two European Americans, 26 Hispanic Americans, 33 Asian Americans, and 20 Russian Americans provided reports of (a) depressive symptoms, (b) momentary emotions and pleasure, and (c) global subjective well-being. Momentary reports were collected over 10 days using handheld personal digital assistants. Reports of anhedonia were associated with heightened levels of momentary low arousal negative emotions (e.g., sadness), whereas reports of depressed mood were associated with dampened levels of momentary positive emotions (e.g., happiness). Symptoms of anhedonia and depressed mood interacted in their associations with momentary pleasure. In addition, the associations of anhedonia and depressed mood with positive emotions and life satisfaction differed across cultural groups. Specifically, these symptoms were associated with dampened positive emotions in the Asian American group only. Additionally, anhedonia was associated with dampened global life satisfaction in the European American group only. These results suggest that reports of anhedonia and depressed mood cannot be interpreted at face value as specific and culture-free indicators of emotional deficits. Instead, they appear to signal changes in the balance of positive and negative emotions, with the exact nature of these signals shaped at least in part by cultural context. This conclusion has important consequences for the clinical interpretation of depressive symptoms in multicultural societies.


anhedonia; culture; depressed mood; momentary sampling; well-being

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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