Prevalence and correlates of depressive symptoms in Chinese older adults: a population-based study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Mar;27(3):305-12. doi: 10.1002/gps.2721. Epub 2011 Apr 27.


Objective: In China, the rapid socioeconomic transition and the consequential traditional culture change had significant influences on Chinese older-adult depression. In the present study, the prevalence, the potential risk, and the protective factors of depression in the Chinese older population were investigated.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a nationwide representative Chinese sample of 4945 older adults; the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used as the measurement tool for depressive symptoms. Demographic and other self-reported related factors were taken into consideration.

Results: The prevalence of self-reported depressive symptoms (CES-D ≥ 16) in the total study population was 39.86% (pre-old: 39.95%, young-old: 39.84%, old-old: 39.65%, oldest-old: 45.19%); CES-D score was significantly higher in the oldest-old group than in the three younger groups. Furthermore, multiple regression analysis indicated that age itself was not an effective predictor for depressive symptoms, whereas family support and health status explained most of the variation.

Conclusions: The present study found a higher prevalence of depression in the Chinese older population compared with those reported two decades ago. Family support and health status were the most significant protective factors for depression in Chinese older adults. Traditional Chinese culture, which values family significantly and contributed to the previously reported lower prevalence rate, changed dramatically, which may explain the current higher prevalence. In addition to the deterioration of family support, the worsening of health status is another significant factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors