Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

How Do Different Elderly-Care Patterns Affect Subjective Well-Being of Elderly People in Rural China? Case of Shandong Province

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

How Do Different Elderly-Care Patterns Affect Subjective Well-Being of Elderly People in Rural China? Case of Shandong Province

Article excerpt

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Sustainability has become a buzz topic globally. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established in the year 2000, has made a real difference in people's lives, and this progress will be expanded with the launch of sustainable development agenda in September 2015. This new agenda goes far beyond "we can end poverty" by MDGs and proposes more sustainable development goals for which "to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages" is an important issue. Under the background of global aging population, it is more realistic to promote wellbeing for elderly people.

China's aging population has given rise to some thorny problems, especially in the rural areas. The alarmingly high suicide rate among elderly people is one of them and has revealed a slew of problems that the government and the society as a whole should attend to. According to China Daily's report on August 6, 2014, the suicide rate among the rural elderly has increased from 100 per 100,000 to 500 per 100,000 in two decades. "It seems that death is nothing to fear, and suicide is a normal, even a happy, end" (Liu, 2014). A research by Hong Kong University further indicates that the 70-74 age group has been keeping a high rate of completed suicide from 2002 to 2011, reaching 41.7 per 100,000, which is four to five times higher than the world average and ranks the first in the world (Wang et al., 2014).

There is more to it than the alarming figures. On the one hand, suicide rates among elderly people are much higher in rural areas than in urban areas, and the gap between rural and urban becomes wider with age advancement. As indicated in Figure 1, the gap of suicide rate is around 20.0 per 100,000 for the 60-74 age group, 40.0-50.0 per 100,000 for the 75-84 age group, and 70.0 per 100,000 for the over-85 age group in 2012. On the other hand, in the 1980s, younger people accounted for 64 percent of all suicides committed in rural areas, while elderly people made up only about 15 percent. A drastic reversal in the suicide trend has been noticed in China in the 21st century, with 80 percent of reported suicides in rural areas being committed by elderly people as opposed to only 10 percent by younger people. All of these facts make it a major task in the long-term battle to curb the rising suicide rate, improve wellbeing of elderly people, and accomplish sustainable development in rural China.

Harsh living conditions, critical illness, and emotional loneliness drive the wave of suicides among the rural elderly (Liu, 2014). In other words, suicide is always a combination of both physical and mental problems. It is important to improve elderly-care patterns with economic and social changes to cut suicide rates. As we know, it has been a tradition for several thousand years in China's rural areas to "raise children to provide for old age" and to value filial piety to attend to the elderly. However, many elderly people in rural areas can no longer depend on their children, since hundreds of millions of young farmers rush to coastal cities as migrant workers. Even if they have made some money and want to settle down, they usually choose to bring their children, who were once raised by grandparents, to the city and leave the elderly at home unattended. Although the over-60 age group can resort to social elderly-care and receive a monthly pension (less than 100 yuan) from the government, such a low pension is far from being sufficient for a decent living. Then, the rural elderly has no choice but to rely on themselves. At the same time, the dire shortage of elderly-care facilities in most of China's rural areas is making things worse. When left-behind, rural elderly are unable to take care of themselves and nursing homes are not available, it is natural for them to feel desperate and hopeless, and, finally, many choose to end their life. To a great extent, the increasing suicide rate and deteriorating well-being among elderly people puts forward higher requirements for improvement of elderly-care patterns in rural China. …

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