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13.06.2016 | Ausgabe 12/2016 Open Access

Quality of Life Research 12/2016

Health-related quality of life of among elders in rural China: the effect of widowhood

Quality of Life Research > Ausgabe 12/2016
Jianfang Zhou, Norman Hearst



China has an enormous and rapidly growing population of widowed elders. Little is known about how losing a spouse affects elders’ health-related quality of life (QOL), especially in the rural areas where most Chinese elders live. This article analyzes QOL data collected in 2014 among rural Chinese elders to address this question.


SF12 questionnaires and information about individual and household characteristics were collected from 3053 elders aged 60 and above in rural China. We compared the physical component summary (PCS) and mental component summary (MCS) scores between 1925 married elders and 1060 widowed elders in a bivariate model stratifying by gender and age group and in a general factorial ANOVA multivariate analysis that examined and controlled for other predictors of PCS and MCS scores including education, chronic disease, and family and household factors.


Widowed male and female elders’ physical health and mental health were in decline with age. Widowed men had lower PCS and MCS scores than married men. Widowed women also had lower PCS scores, but differences in MCS scores did not reach statistical significance. In multivariate analysis, widowhood was associated with lower PCS and MCS scores overall. Support from children was associated with better QOL and, based on interaction analysis, appeared to mitigate negative effects of widowhood.


Widowed rural elders in China have lower physical and mental quality of life than their married counterparts. These elders rely on their children for care, and a supportive family is associated with better QOL.

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