Unit 7: Introduction

Studying Health and Well-being Across Cultures

Center for Cross-Cultural Research
Western Washington University

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Does eating and drinking more than is needed for survival constitute well-being, or is it indicative of self indulgence that could lead to obesity and negative health complications?  Is corpulence a sign of beauty or a grotesque reminder of decadence?  Is it better to walk quickly and efficiently or is deliberate and graceful physical motion preferred?  To what extent is one's "world view" and degree of optimism related to a sense of well-being?  Are there cultures and societies that actively promote well being to such an extent that it shows up in statistics on illness, longevity, morbidity, national productivity and so on? Answers to these kinds of questions and many others that relate to health and well-being are greatly influenced by the cultural norms of the society being studied.  In addition to the overall condition of individual physical states are the variances in cultural standards that may exist within a society when factors such as age and gender are considered.

In this unit, the cultural values and beliefs that influence general areas of health and well being are presented. Along with physical health, questions of mind-body interaction are also examined. Practices that enhance survival such as sharing of food and other life sustaining materials, are usually passed from generation to generation for the purpose of sustaining the strengths of a people, especially when living conditions may be challenging as in climates of extreme heat, cold, moisture, or dryness.

Unit 7. To view a chapter, click on the title.
Chapter Author Title
- Editors Unit 7 Introduction
1 Eunkook M. Suh and Shigehiro Oishi Subjective Well-being Across Cultures
2 Frances E. Aboud Cultural Perspectives on the Interactions Between Nutrition, Health, and Psychological Functioning


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