Relocation and Perceived Social Support Among Elderly Persons in Rural China

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:20 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Margaret PENNING , Sociology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
Weihong ZENG , Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, 710049,, China
In China, recent relocation policies have seen millions of people moved from their homes in efforts to reduce poverty, address ecological and disaster-related concerns, and make way for major construction projects. Many of those who are being relocated are older adults, moving for the first time in their lives away from their rural ancestral homes and villages. Yet, little is known about the implications of relocation for older adults, including its implications for access to social support and care. However, this is an important outcome in the Chinese context where, for centuries, older individuals have relied on family members for support.

This study addresses these issues using data drawn from the 2011 Ankang Study of Health and Well-Being (ASHW) conducted with a representative sample of 613 rural residents aged 60+ living in the Ankang region of China. Over the last 10 years, the provincial government has implemented policies designed to relocate 2.4 million residents or 80% of the total population in the region.

Multivariate regression analyses show that construction-related relocation has no impact on perceived support. However, poverty-reduction and disaster-related relocation are associated with a reduced level of perceived support available from others with the exception of social interaction in the case of disaster-related relocation. Ecological relocation also had a negative impact on emotional support.

These findings support the view that relocation reduces older adults’ perceived access to social support. This is particularly evident with regard to poverty-reduction and disaster-related relocation. Possible explanations for these differences are discussed as are the potentially important implications of these findings for future health care policy in rural China.