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Living Arrangements of the Elderly in China and Consequences for their Emotional Well-being

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionRen, Qiang, and Donald J. Treiman. 2014. "Living Arrangements of the Elderly in China and Consequences for their Emotional Well-being." PSC Research Report No. 14-814. January 2014.

We study the living arrangements and consequences for emotional well-being of the elderly in China using data from a national probability sample survey conducted in 2010, part of the China Family Panel Studies: 14,960 households were included and information was collected for each family member. We study 7,015 people in the sample age 60+. We find that, compared to living independently with one's spouse, elderly respondents living with grown children are less happy, have less life satisfaction, and are more depressed, especially when the spouse is not sharing the household. The negative effects largely disappear when there also are grandchildren in the household although widows and widowers remain more prone to depression. Elderly people living in "generation-skipping" families suffer the same fate as living with adult children but no grandchildren—they are less happy and more depressed and, when not sharing responsibilities with a spouse, less satisfied with life than independent elderly couples. Finally, living alone or living with other relatives results in a significant degradation of emotional health. But the very small fraction of elderly respondents living with non-relatives enjoy the greatest happiness and the least depression.

Country of focus: China.

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