The Role of Culture and Self-Construal in the Link Between Expressive Suppression and Depressive Symptoms

Jenny C. Su, Richard M. Lee, Shigehiro Oishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The majority of research on expressive suppression and health outcomes has been conducted in the United States, but little is known about how expressive suppression relates to the functioning of individuals living in other parts of the world. To address this gap, we conducted a cross-cultural study of Chinese Singaporean and European American college students, focusing on the relation between frequency of expressive suppression and self-reported depressive symptoms. Consistent with self-construal theory, the suppression-depression link depends on cultural background and the type of emotion involved. Expressive suppression involving positive socially disengaging emotions (e.g., pride) was associated with higher depressive symptoms for European Americans but not for Chinese Singaporeans. This cultural difference was mediated by independent self-construal. No cultural differences were found in the suppression-depression link when positive socially engaging emotions (e.g., respect) were involved. These findings underscore the importance of developing a more nuanced understanding of the relation between expressive suppression and psychological functioning to better inform theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-331
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded in part by American Psychological Foundation/Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology Graduate Research Fellowship.


  • culture
  • depression
  • emotion regulation
  • expressive suppression
  • self-construal


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