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Cross-Cultural Differences in Psychosocial Adaptation to Isolated and Confined Environments

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Palinkas LA, Johnson JC, Boster JS, Rakusa-Suszczewski S, Klopov VP, Xue QF, Sachdeva U. Cross-cultural differences in psychosocial adaptation to isolated and confined environments. Aviat Space Environ Med 2004; 75:973–980.

Introduction: Differences in patterns of psychosocial adaptation under conditions of prolonged isolation and confinement in Antarctica were examined to determine the extent to which they were influenced by national culture in general and the individualist-collectivist orientation of national cultures in particular. Methods: The Profile of Mood States and measures of structural and functional social support were administered over an 8-mo period (March through October) to 13 winter-over crews from 5 nations operating research stations in the Antarctic: United States (3 crews, n = 77), Poland (3 crews, n = 40), Russia (3 crews, n = 34), China (3 crews, n = 40), and India (1 crew, n = 26). Results: Americans at South Pole Station reported significant increases in fatigue and anxiety and a significant decrease in vigor over the winter. During the same period, Russians at Vostok Station reported significant decreases in depression, anxiety, and confusion, and Indians at Maitri Station reported a significant decrease in anger. A significant decrease in social interaction with fellow crewmembers occurred at South Pole Station, Vostok Station, and Poland’s Arctowski Station. Several differences were also observed between the five stations in correlations between mood scores and measures of structural and functional social support. An individualistic cultural orientation was significantly associated with low social support and low negative mood. Conclusion: Cultural background is associated with mood and social support as well as changes in these measures during the austral winter. Cultural differences in patterns of psychosocial adaptation must be considered in the formation and training of multinational crews for long duration missions in space.
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Keywords: Antarctica; extreme environments; mood; multinational crews; social support

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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