The Protective Effect of Culture on Depression During Covid-19 Pandemic: A Romanian National Study

Monica B. Bartucz, Silviu A. Matu, Daniel O. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Previous studies indicated that collectivism represents a protective factor against depressive disorders, even among vulnerable populations. The protective effect of collectivism in relation to depressive disorders is often attributed to the social support networks available to individuals in collectivistic societies. The current study aims to investigate the protective effect of collectivism in the relationship between psychological vulnerabilities and depression. Moreover, we examined whether the protective effect of collectivism in relation to depression can be explained through the mechanism of social support. We measured individualism-collectivism for 42 Romanian counties (n = 2,882) before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data for irrational cognitions, depression, and social support were collected online during the lockdown in Romania (n = 5,310). All instruments showed acceptable measurement and scalar invariance across regions. In a multi-level regression model, county-level collectivism was associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms b = −.032, 95% CI [−0.045; −0.019], while irrational cognitions were positively associated with depression b =.474, 95% CI [0.438; 0.510]. The interaction between irrational beliefs and collectivism had a significant and negative effect on depression, b = −.004, 95% CI [−0.008; −0.000]. The indirect effect of collectivism on depression via social support was tested in a two-level SEM model. Explicit and implicit social support were not significant mediators. Collectivism was negatively associated with the perceived availability of explicit social support, b = −.043, 95% CI [−0.074; −0.012]. The results support a general protective effect of collectivism on mental health but cast doubt that the mechanism for this effect is related to social support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1186
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Romania
  • depression
  • individualism-collectivism
  • irrational beliefs


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