Depression and anxiety among left-behind children in China: a systematic review

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This study aimed to systematically review evidence of the prevalence and predictors of depression and anxiety among ‘left-behind children’ in rural China. The electronic databases PubMed/MEDLINE and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure/Wanfang (Chinese) were utilized to search for terms including ‘depression’ or ‘depressive disorder’, ‘anxiety’ or ‘mental health’, combined with ‘left behind’, ‘children’ and ‘China’. High rates of psychological depression/anxiety have been reported among left-behind children compared with their age-matched peers. Prevalence rates of depression are reported to range from 12.1 to 51.4% and of anxiety are reported to range from 13.2 to 57.6%. Variability between studies is likely attributable to methodological variations relating to measures used and research setting. Potential predictors measured in studies include age and gender, types of being left, age/years of separation, socio-economic status, etc. These high rates of reported psychological problems among this group of young people suggest the need to develop more effective approaches to prevention and management.

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