Here in the United States, everyone strives to be happier. And, Americans work really hard at staying happy.
There are techniques—like meditation, eating healthy, and working out—that flocks of folks do on the daily to not only stay healthy, but better their quality of life in general. And when that’s not working, it’s relatively common to seek medication: The US uses more antidepressants than any other country in the world. But according to a new study, not all regions of the globe correlate happiness to be healthiness.
After analyzing the blood-lipid levels—a way to gauge heart health—of 1,017 Americans and 374 Japanese people, researchers found that higher happiness levels had an association with improved health in the US but not in Japan.
“In East Asian cultures, people commonly view positive emotions as having dark sides—they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others, and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks.”
“In American cultures, experiencing positive emotions is seen as desirable and is even encouraged via socialization,” lead study author Jiah Yoo told The Cut. “But in East Asian cultures, people commonly view positive emotions as having dark sides—they are fleeting, may attract unnecessary attention from others, and can be a distraction from focusing on important tasks.”
Because of that, while Americans are more likely to have healthy blood-lipid profiles based on positive emotions, the same isn’t necessarily true for Japanese people, explains Yoo. But even though Americans have grown up believing that being happy leads to better health and a longer life, there’s nothing unhealthy about experiencing all emotions—both good and bad. In fact, Yoo told The Cut that Americans can actually improve their mental state if they viewed negativity as more acceptable.
So if you’re a happy person, that’s great, but if you’re not positive 24/7, that’s fine too. (Did you know that feeling stress can actually help make you more successful?). Considering that the Japanese have one of the highest rates of life expectancy, it’s safe to say they’re on to something.