Family and social aspects associated with depression among older persons in a Chinese context

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AimThis study aims to explore the factors associated with depression among older persons in Macau, in relation to family and social aspects.BackgroundDepression among community-dwelling older persons in Macau has been shown to be present at high rates. In Chinese culture, depression leads to social stigmatisation, suggesting a need to better understand depression as a sociocultural phenomenon.MethodsA mixed methods study was undertaken to identify the key influences on depression among Chinese older persons in Macau. Quantitative (standardised tests) and qualitative (collection of narratives) data were collected from 31 purposively selected participants, all community-dwelling older persons with depression.ResultsDepression was common among the participants. The paper reports on the family and social aspects, one of the findings of the study. Informants readily described their thoughts and judgements of themselves in graphic language. As they explored their life stories, family and social aspects emerged as significant influences that associated with depression. In a society and culture that relies on and values filial support, experiences of being widowed, having poor family support and weak social networks appeared to compound and exacerbate depression.ConclusionsThese findings highlight that filial support, valued in Chinese culture, is seriously strained by the realities of contemporary society. Yet current government policies rely on and confirm the role of family support. Findings from this study suggest a need for such policies to be reviewed to address the realities of family and social support.Implications for practiceThe findings have several implications for clinical practice. Firstly, the cultural context of Chinese older persons should be considered and emphasised in nursing practice. Secondly, the root of depression among Chinese older persons is seen to lie in their social, family, cultural and day-to-day living issues.

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