Journal of Community Health

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 674–681 | Cite as

Social Support and the ‘Left Behind’ Elderly in Rural China: A Case Study from Jiangxi Province

  • Ka LinEmail author
  • Pingjun Yin
  • Nicholas Loubere
Original Paper


This study examines the living situation of elderly people in rural China whose children have left to work in other areas [the ‘left behind’ elderly (LBE)] and explores policy implications associated with their care. Based on survey data and interviews conducted in three villages in Jiangxi Province, China, we compare the living situation of the LBE and the ‘non-left behind’ elderly (NLBE). The data reveal that the LBE are relatively more isolated and that they spend less time interacting with neighbors and more time watching television. The study shows that the LBE have a much greater need for care services than income maintenance. Also, the LBE group has less social capital than the NLBE group. Based on our findings, it is clear that the proposal to use social capital and informal care cannot effectively meet all the needs of the LBE group. Instead, it is recommended that a comprehensive system of social support is developed.


Elderly care Social support ‘Left behind’ elderly Aging Migrant workers 



This study was supported by the “Social Support for the ‘left behind’ elderly” Grant (08SH08) funded by the Social Sciences Fund of Jiangxi Province, China, and a research project on elderly care Grant (12JZD035) supported by the Ministry of Education in China.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Jiangxi University of Finance and EconomicsNanchangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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