Depression and anxiety among left-behind children in China: a systematic review

Child Care Health Dev. 2015 Jul;41(4):515-23. doi: 10.1111/cch.12221. Epub 2014 Dec 14.


This study aimed to systematically review evidence of the prevalence and predictors of depression and anxiety among 'left-behind children' in rural China. The electronic databases PubMed/MEDLINE and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure/Wanfang (Chinese) were utilized to search for terms including 'depression' or 'depressive disorder', 'anxiety' or 'mental health', combined with 'left behind', 'children' and 'China'. High rates of psychological depression/anxiety have been reported among left-behind children compared with their age-matched peers. Prevalence rates of depression are reported to range from 12.1 to 51.4% and of anxiety are reported to range from 13.2 to 57.6%. Variability between studies is likely attributable to methodological variations relating to measures used and research setting. Potential predictors measured in studies include age and gender, types of being left, age/years of separation, socio-economic status, etc. These high rates of reported psychological problems among this group of young people suggest the need to develop more effective approaches to prevention and management.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; left-behind children; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Abandoned / psychology
  • China / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Transients and Migrants