Background: It is well known that the absence of both autonomy and social support (relatedness) are two important etiologic pathways to major depressive disorder (MDD). However, cross-cultural researchers state that the implications of autonomy and relatedness for mental health vary across cultures.
Aim: To test these assumptions, the current study investigated the relevance of autonomy and relatedness for mental health in healthy and depressed women from two different cultures (Germans and Turkish immigrants in Germany).
Methods: One hundred and eight (108) women were evaluated for their levels of autonomy/relatedness satisfaction, for overall psychopathological complaints including depression, for affectivity and for perceived loneliness through self-report measures.
Results: Among healthy groups, relatedness satisfaction predicted better mental health in Turkish women, whereas in German women, autonomy satisfaction was the better mental health predictor. Within depressed groups however, cultural differences in mental health outcomes regarding autonomy were no longer evident. Autonomy was associated with higher levels of mental health in Turkish as well as in German patients.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the relationship between autonomy and mental health is culture-specific in healthy women, but disappears in depressed women. These findings are discussed with consideration of clinical implications and an outlook regarding further research.