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Widowhood and depressive symptoms among older Chinese: Do gender and source of support make a difference?

Publication Abstract

Li, Lydia W., Jersey Liang, Amanda Toler, and Shengzu Gu. 2005. "Widowhood and depressive symptoms among older Chinese: Do gender and source of support make a difference?" Social Science & Medicine, 60(3): 637-647.

In this study, we examined the effects of gender and pre-bereavement social support from three different sources (spouse, adult children, and friends) on widowhood adjustment among older adults in China. Hypotheses were developed by integrating the literature in the West and the cultural context of China. Data came from a panel survey, conducted in 1991 (baseline) and 1994 (follow-up), of a probability sample of older persons in Wuhan, China. For the present analysis, only those who were married with children at baseline were selected (N = 1,263). About 10% of the sample experienced spousal death between the two measurement points. Multiple regression analyses suggest that widowhood had a negative mental health consequence for older Chinese. Social support from adult children buffered the deleterious effect of widowhood, whereas spousal support during the marriage increased one's vulnerability. Support from friends was not found to have a significant effect. Gender difference in the effect of widowhood was also not evident. In this study, we have extended bereavement and social support research to a developing nation, with some findings similar to and some different from studies in Western developed nations.

DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.06.014 (Full Text)

Country of focus: China.

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