Monday, 17 December 2012

Depression a "time bomb" for China's wife-less young men

China's increasing numbers of unmarried men are prone to depression, suicidal feelings and aggression
by Michael Woodhead
China's sex ratio imbalance is producing an increasing number of unmarried men who have a high risk of depression, suicidal ideation, lower self-esteem and greater propensity to aggression, a Hangzhou study has shown.
Dr Zhou Xudong and researchers at the Institute of Social and Family Medicine of  Zhejiang University,  Hangzhou, studied psychiatric characteristics of 1,059 never-married men and 1,066 married men aged 30–40. They found that never-married men were poorer, less well educated and had lower self-esteem than married men. Never-married men were also much more likely to have depression symptoms, higher levels of aggression and were more likely to have suicidal thoughts or wishes  than married men.
The researchers say China has the highest excess of male births in the world at 118 to every 100 female, with a current excess of 20 million men of reproductive age. They say their study is one of the first to show that this sex imbalance is having an impact on the psychological well-being of the large numbers of men who will never marry.
"The high prevalence of severe depression and suicide ideation in these men is of particular concern. In rural China mental health services are currently very sparse, but rural doctors could be trained to use a check score to identify severe depression, and refer as appropriate to specialist services," they say.
"Our results present evidence for a potential mental health timebomb in rural large areas of rural China," they add.
They say the immediate question is what can be done to support the millions of men who, through no fault of their own, will be unable to marry and have children, and who, as a consequence have high rates of depression and suicidal tendencies.
"The challenge here is the virtual non-existence of mental health services in most of rural China. There are 1.3 psychiatrists and two psychiatric nurses per 100,000 people in China, but the overwhelming majority are in urban areas."
According to the researchers few men with depression are diagnosed or treated because of the lack of trained mental health professional in rural China.
"It would be straightforward and feasible to train rural doctors to identify key symptoms and signs of mental illness, or simply to administer a mental well-being check list as a screening tool for referral. The problem of depression is not of course confined to older unmarried men and such screening would identify vulnerable married men and women as well. This would of course require a major strengthening of mental health services at county level and above. But with mental health now rising on the health agenda and more resources available for health services as a result of the health reforms in China, there is a real opportunity now to address this," they conclude.
Source: Social Psychiatry

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