Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Many of China’s 140 million old people find the crowd to be lonely

21.01.2009
IT has 20 per cent of the world’s population with 1.4bn people – but China’s rapid economic and social change has caused its pensioners to feel lonely and alienated, a new study suggests.

Although capitalism has brought prosperity and increased political power to China, it has also caused the weakening of a traditional society that had collectivism and strong family ties at its heart.

The study by Durham University and the University of Reading, published in Ageing and Society, examined in detail two surveys of Chinese people aged 60 years and over in 1992 and 2000 (1). The percentage of older people who said they were lonely has doubled from about 16% in 1992 to 30% in 2000.

While loneliness can severely impact a person’s quality of life, it can also be a triggering factor for mental health issues. The findings suggest that policy makers in China need to take urgent action to assess what is needed to improve the quality of life for its 140 million older people, who collectively amount to the largest older population in the world.

The Durham and Reading University study suggests potential causes for loneliness include a widespread move since the late1970s from highly collectivised communities, where several generations lived under one roof in close proximity to their neighbours, to communities dominated by the nuclear family, many living in impersonal city apartment blocks.

Under the collectivised system in rural areas, communes, brigades and teams were not only responsible for agricultural production but many other community affairs, meaning a high level of social interaction for all.

In today’s economic climate, sons and daughters are more likely to have moved long distances from the country to the city or from one city to another in search of work, often leaving their parents behind. They can work long hours, juggling childcare with the demands of full-time work, and although they send money home, visits can be infrequent. The single-child policy means that older people are increasingly left without a selection of offspring for company and care in their old age.

Lead study author Dr Keming Yang, a Durham University sociologist who hails from China’s third largest city, Tianjin, said: “While economic development has brought many benefits for China, such as money, increased political power and better standards of living, loneliness is one of its negative effects.

“Mao has been roundly criticised for many aspects of his leadership but - like it or not - the way the society was structured at the time effectively provided opportunities for a high level of social interaction, either good or bad.

“There was a lack of competition and a slower pace of life where people had more control over their schedule. Members of the community tended to attend long meetings where they would talk to others about not merely business but personal issues as well.”

But the study authors point out that more detailed research is needed to obtain a more accurate picture outlining the extent of the loneliness problem: Dr Yang added: “While concentrating on economic advancement it is easy to ignore the wider social effects of a richer but more competitive society.

“Experience of capitalist societies to date suggests it is very likely that many other sections of the population, especially young people who are under huge amounts of pressure at school and home, are feeling the same sense of isolation.”

Co-author Professor Christina Victor, of the University of Reading, said: “Levels of loneliness in China are now comparable, or higher than, those observed in Western Europe; therefore, this is not just a problem seen in developed countries.”

Dr Yang said a potential solution for the Chinese authorities to tackle loneliness in the old was to ensure the local community played a greater role in engaging older people in social and group activities, although this would require some financial support.

Footnote:
(1) The surveys used for the study were the Survey of the Support System for the Elderly in China (1992) and the Survey of the Aged Population in China (2,000). Differences in the design of the two studies mean they can not be used as an exact comparison but they are the best statistical indication to date of the problem of loneliness.

Claire Whitelaw | alfa
Further information:
http://www.durham.ac.uk/news

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>