Culture and Grief: The concepts of social support and loneliness among bereaved individuals from collectivistic and individualistic cultures
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Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of social support for well-being, especially during bereavement, which is linked to intense feelings of loneliness. As part of a larger project of Utrecht University, this study examined patterns of social support, specifically support seeking, and the experience of social and emotional loneliness among bereaved from different cultures. It was predicted that participants from collectivistic cultures will report lower levels of support seeking and higher levels of emotional loneliness than participants from individualistic cultures. Additionally, support seeking was expected to have a negative relationship to social loneliness and present no relationship to emotional loneliness. The sample consisted of 268 bereaved participants from Greece and Turkey (collectivistic cultures), Ireland and Lithuania (individualistic cultures), according to Hofstede’s categorization (1980;1983). Brief Cope Inventory was used to measure social support seeking. The two types of loneliness were measured by SELSA-S. The results showed no difference between the two groups in support seeking. Social loneliness was positively correlated to support seeking for both cultures. As expected, results showed no significant relationship between social support seeking and emotional loneliness for both groups. Lastly, emotional loneliness was higher among collectivists. To provide implications for further research and enrich the knowledge of clinical practice concerning grief patterns, longitudinal designs should be applied to address causal relationships and underlying mechanisms that might have indirect effect on social support and loneliness.