Academic journal article General Psychiatry

Subjective Well-Being of the Elderly in XI Cheng District, Beijing

Academic journal article General Psychiatry

Subjective Well-Being of the Elderly in XI Cheng District, Beijing

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As the population ages, the health and well-being of the elderly will become an increasingly important issue for families, for health care providers, and for medical insurance systems. [1] In 2010 the Beijing Municipal Government developed a nine-point agenda for the support of the elderly and the disabled [2] that included a component on geriatric mental health. Evaluating this program will require ongoing assessment of the quality of life of Beijing's elderly that includes both objective measures of physical and mental health and subjective measures of individuals' satisfaction with their quality of life. 'Subjective well-being' is a person's overall evaluation of their quality of life based on their assessment of different aspects of their lives including the physical environment, familial relationships, economic conditions and so forth; such assessments are subjective, comprehensive, and relatively stable. [3] The current study aims to assess subjective well-being in a representative sample of Beijing's elderly.

2. Methods

2.1 Participants

The identification of participants in the survey is shown in Figure 1. A stratified random cluster sample of community-dwelling residents 60 to 80 years of age from seven neighborhoods of Xi Cheng District in Beijing was identified. Xi Cheng District is one of the two inner-city districts of Beijing; it has a total population of 1.2 million individuals. Potential subjects were invited to the local community center or, if they did not come to the community center, visited in their homes by research assistants. In total, 2342 individuals who did not have an obvious mental illness and who provided written informed consent to participate in the survey were administered the survey instruments. The study was approved by the institutional ethics board of the Bureau of Health of Xi Cheng District of Beijing.

2.2 Measurement tools

A detailed demographic and life style questionnaire designed for the study included the following self-completion items: gender, age, marital status, education level, employment status, type of household, quality of family relationships, type of housing, level of personal income, type of health insurance, manner of retirement, attitude towards retirement, adjustment to retirement, number of leisure activities over the prior week (including watching television, singing and dancing, reading, playing cards, watching movies, having a pet, calligraphy, stamp collection), self-reported temperament (on an introversion-extroversion dimension), self-report of ability to regulate one's own emotions, smoking history, drinking history, and regularity of exercise ('regular exercise' was coded as present if the respondent reported at least 30 minutes of exercise twice a week). Among the 2342 respondents, 108 (4.6%) reported that they were currently employed full-time; most of these respondents had not previously retired so they did not complete the questions about retirement.


The Memorial University of Newfoundland Scale of Happiness (MUNSH) [4] was used to assess respondents' subjective level of well-being over the prior couple of months. (For the purposes of the current study we equate 'subjective well-being' to 'happiness' as assessed by the MUNSH.) This is a 24-item, self-completion scale with 'yes' or 'no' responses that includes five items measuring positive attitudes (PA), five items measuring negative attitudes (NA), seven items measuring positive experiences (PE), and seven items measuring negative experiences (NE). Each 'positive' response is scored as '1' and each negative response is scored as '-1', but when computing the subscale scores and total scale score these are converted to a positive range so the range of values for the PA and NA subscales scores are 0-10, the range for the PE and NE subscales scores are 0-14, and the range for the total scale score is 0-48. …

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