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:
Claire Whitelaw | alfa
Lying in a foreign language is easier
19.07.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
05.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences
19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences