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Mental Health and Depressive Feeling of Empty-nest Elderly People in China

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Objectives: This paper reports on the first study in China that used nationally representative data to compare mental health and depressive feeling between empty-nest and non-empty-nest elderly people (over 60 years old), and examine whether the health disparities (if any) can be explained by differences in family, emotional, housework, and economic support. Methods: We used the 2010 China General Social Survey and multivariate regression models to examine mental health and depressive feeling of 556 non-empty-nest and 210 empty-nest elderly people in China. Results: After controlling for various socio-demographic characteristics, although the empty-nest elderly were significantly more likely to report depressive feeling and poor mental health than non-empty-nest elderly, the difference was only statistically significant for depressive feeling. Importantly, the disparity in both depressive feeling and mental health can be mediated by differences in family economic support and household economic pressure. Conclusions: Our results highlight the risks of depressive feeling arising from the empty-nest living arrangement of elderly people and suggest that a poorer economic situation may result from decreased mental health. Drawing upon these results, future public policies aimed at improving mental health of empty-nest elderly may need to be more targeted to improve their economic conditions such as ameliorating pension and social welfare system shortcomings.
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Keywords: CHINA; DEPRESSIVE FEELING; EMPTY-NEST ELDERLY PEOPLE; MENTAL HEALTH

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Lixia Wang, School of Public Administration, Shanxi University of Finance & Economics, Taiyuan, China 2: Wenbo Liu, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland (UK) 3: Yuhui Liang, PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, School of Public Administration, Hohai University, Nanjing, China; Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (UK);, Email: [email protected] 4: Yuewei Wei, Independent Researcher, London, England (UK)

Publication date: November 1, 2019

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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