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It is unknown how much variation in adult mental health problems is associated with differences between societal/cultural groups, over and above differences between individuals.
To test these relative contributions, a consortium of indigenous researchers collected Adult Self-Report (ASR) ratings from 16 906 18- to 59-year-olds in 28 societies that represented seven culture clusters identified in the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavioral Effectiveness study (e.g. Confucian, Anglo). The ASR is scored on 17 problem scales, plus a personal strengths scale. Hierarchical linear modeling estimated variance accounted for by individual differences (including measurement error), society, and culture cluster. Multi-level analyses of covariance tested age and gender effects.
Across the 17 problem scales, the variance accounted for by individual differences ranged from 80.3% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems to 95.2% for DSM-oriented avoidant personality (mean = 90.7%); by society: 3.2% for DSM-oriented somatic problems to 8.0% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems (mean = 6.3%); and by culture cluster: 0.0% for DSM-oriented avoidant personality to 11.6% for DSM-oriented anxiety problems (mean = 3.0%). For strengths, individual differences accounted for 80.8% of variance, societal differences 10.5%, and cultural differences 8.7%. Age and gender had very small effects.
Overall, adults' self-ratings of mental health problems and strengths were associated much more with individual differences than societal/cultural differences, although this varied across scales. These findings support cross-cultural use of standardized measures to assess mental health problems, but urge caution in assessment of personal strengths.
To conduct international comparisons of self-reports, collateral reports, and cross-informant agreement regarding older adult psychopathology.
We compared self-ratings of problems (e.g. I cry a lot) and personal strengths (e.g. I like to help others) for 10,686 adults aged 60–102 years from 19 societies and collateral ratings for 7,065 of these adults from 12 societies.
Data were obtained via the Older Adult Self-Report (OASR) and the Older Adult Behavior Checklist (OABCL; Achenbach et al., 2004).
Cronbach’s alphas were .76 (OASR) and .80 (OABCL) averaged across societies. Across societies, 27 of the 30 problem items with the highest mean ratings and 28 of the 30 items with the lowest mean ratings were the same on the OASR and the OABCL. Q correlations between the means of the 0–1–2 ratings for the 113 problem items averaged across all pairs of societies yielded means of .77 (OASR) and .78 (OABCL). For the OASR and OABCL, respectively, analyses of variance (ANOVAs) yielded effect sizes (ESs) for society of 15% and 18% for Total Problems and 42% and 31% for Personal Strengths, respectively. For 5,584 cross-informant dyads in 12 societies, cross-informant correlations averaged across societies were .68 for Total Problems and .58 for Personal Strengths. Mixed-model ANOVAs yielded large effects for society on both Total Problems (ES = 17%) and Personal Strengths (ES = 36%).
The OASR and OABCL are efficient, low-cost, easily administered mental health assessments that can be used internationally to screen for many problems and strengths.
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