Navigation auf


Department of Psychology Personality, Mental Health, and Culture

The Africa Long Life Study

The Africa Long Life Study

Psychology is missing something: Most of humanity

A major problem in psychological science is overreliance on samples from Western industrialized settings, home to only 11% of the world’s population. The ‘majority world’, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, where most of the world’s population lives, is severely underrepresented in our science. Longitudinal studies have been central to psychology, teaching us how traits and mental health develop and change over the lifespan, which experiences or attributes shape psychology, and how psychology shapes experience.  Unfortunately, such studies are virtually absent outside the West. Recent meta-analyses of longitudinal studies in specific topic areas include hundreds of longitudinal studies. But they are almost all from Western contexts: The few exceptions are still mainly from wealthy nations.

This severely limits the generalizability of our findings, as many, if not most, aspects of psychology vary across cultural settings. Culture and psychology are profoundly co-constituted. But we have only just started to address the question of which phenomena are human universals and which are shaped by the cultural context.

The Africa Long Life Study brings lifespan research outside the West

The Africa Long Life Study (ALLS) was conceived to explore psychological development of young adults in three African countries over a five-year period. We use mixed-methods and both etic (imported) and emic (localized) approaches to test findings from other contexts for replicability, and to build theory about local phenomena and topics of interest from the bottom up.

ALLS samples provide a strong contrast to Western samples, differing in many social, cultural, ecological, and historical respects. This allows for strong tests of the universality of models, measures, and theories, thus helping to distinguish more universal from more culturally-specific aspects of psychology. This project is also inspired by applied goals, including team members who are counseling or clinical psychologists and school teachers, motivated to contribute useful knowledge for local practitioners, education, and policy. In addition to these scientific and practical goals, a core value of the ALLS is to be shaped by input from community members. This has meant, for example, increasing the degree to which we focus on mental health, based on feedback from multiple parties.

The ALLS includes both a traditional longitudinal component with variables assessed annually or every six months, and a panel component, with variables administered once or twice. This allows us to plan many studies for the initial five years, with four general topic areas guiding study plans: Personality, Mental Health, Emerging Adulthood, and Cultural Mindset.

This study is primarily funded by a Swiss National Science foundation Eccellenza fellowship, "Universal versus culturally-specific aspects of personality and mental health”. Additional funding comes from  a University of Zürich Einrichtungskredit, and funding was provided by National Research Foundation of South Africa to Prof. Luzelle Naudé of University of the Free State for data collection in South Africa.


Weiterführende Informationen

The Africa Long Life Study