Which wound cuts deeper: loss of an only child or loss of a spouse? An examination of bereavement in older adults within a Chinese cultural context

Yan Liang, Hanzhang Xu, Feinian Chen, Hong Liang, Bei Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: This study aimed to examine whether the loss of spouse had similar impacts on psychological well-being as the loss of the only child, and whether the presence of one mitigated the absence of the other. Methods: We used data from a 2013 survey conducted in Shanghai, China. The sample included 1,200 older adults aged 60+, and 200 adults aged 45+ who lost their only child. Psychological well-being consisted of three dimensions: depression, loneliness, and life satisfaction. We applied logistic regression models to assess the impact of loss of spouse or children on psychological well-being. We further tested whether the impact differed by gender and whether social support mediated the relationship. Results: Participants who have at least one living child but lost their spouse had less psychological distress than those who have a living spouse but lost their only child. This effect appeared to be stronger in women than in men. Social support mediated the relationship between bereavement and loneliness among women. Conclusion: The findings suggested the loss of the only child is a more devastating event than the loss of spouse in Chinese adults. The loss of the only child is a major chronic stressor that has cumulative negative effect on psychological well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAging and Mental Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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