Journal Article

Childhood adversity and depressive symptoms among middle-aged and older Chinese: results from China health and retirement longitudinal study

Yang, L., Hu, Y., Silventoinen, K., Martikainen, P.
Aging and Mental Health (2019)
Keywords: China, childhood, mental depression


Objectives: A number of studies have established the link between childhood adversity (CA) and depression across the life span. This association can be culturally specific, and it remains unclear whether and how different aspects of CA affect depressive symptoms in later life in non-Western societies.

Method: Data were from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study in 2011, 2013, 2014 (Life Event History survey) and 2015 (N = 13,710). Depressive symptoms were measured repeatedly in 2011, 2013, and 2015 using the ten-item Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D-10). CA was assessed in 2014 by parental physical abuse, maternal emotional neglect, early parental death, parental mental health problems, poor quality of parental relationship, and childhood socioeconomic disadvantage. Multilevel linear models were used to analyse the data.

Results: Parental physical abuse was associated with 0.51 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.28, 0.74) and 0.59 (95% CI: 0.31, 0.88) higher CES-D-10 scores compared to those without such abuse experience for men and women, respectively. Emotional neglect predicted 0.30 (95% CI: 0.07, 0.51) and 0.33 (95% CI: 0.08, 0.58) higher CES-D-10 scores for men and women. Elevated CES-D-10 scores were also found among men and women whose parents had poor mental health and poor relationship, and those who experienced food inadequacy (men: 0.78, 95% CI: 0.54, 1.01; women: 1.15, 95% CI: 0.90, 1.41). Early parental death nevertheless was not associated with CES-D-10 scores.

Conclusion: CA exerts long-term detrimental effects on mental health in mid- and late-life among Chinese adults. The findings are consistent with those from Western societies, except for early parental death.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.