Childlessness, Psychological Well-Being, and Life Satisfaction Among the Elderly in China

J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2007 Jun;22(2):185-203. doi: 10.1007/s10823-007-9037-3. Epub 2007 Mar 9.


This paper examines the effects of childlessness on the well-being of persons aged 65 and above in China. It is based on an application of ordered-logit regression in the analysis of the data from the 2002 wave of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) conducted in 22 provinces of China (N = 13,447). It compares parents with the childless elderly, focusing on three dimensions of psychological well-being, namely feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and uselessness, and on life satisfaction. The findings include the following. First, with control of social demographic variables of age, gender and education, childlessness is significantly associated with life satisfaction, feeling of anxiety and loneliness, but not feeling of uselessness. The childless elderly are less satisfied with their lives and feel more anxious and lonely than do parents, but they do not necessarily feel significantly more useless. Second, when controlled with social-demographic variables and additional socioeconomic variables of residence, living arrangement, availability of pension and medical services, childlessness is no longer significantly related to anxiety and loneliness, and it is related at only a marginally-significant level to life satisfaction. Third, individual education, place of residence, living arrangements, economic security and access to medical services are consistently related to life satisfaction and psychological well-being among the elderly. We conclude that providing social investments in education in early life and economic security and medical insurance in later life for both the childless and parents are crucial for improving individual psychological well-being and life satisfaction for the elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • China
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Reproductive Behavior / ethnology
  • Reproductive Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Welfare / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors