Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) New Trends in Studying the Mental Health of Chinese Rural Old Adults: Tracing 22 Years of Research with a Bibliometric Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

601P (see Poster Gallery) New Trends in Studying the Mental Health of Chinese Rural Old Adults: Tracing 22 Years of Research with a Bibliometric Analysis

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Xia Yu Chen, MSW, Pre-doctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Kang Sun, PhD, Pre-doc Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, IL
Background and Purpose: China has been undergoing a fast-aging process. The majority of the older adults lives in rural areas and has remained consistently poorer and more vulnerable than their urban counterparts. The primary government policies and social welfare programs have targeted material security and physical health improvements in the past two decades. In contrast, mental health conditions among rural older adults have received less recognition. Using bibliometric analysis, we uncover the development trend of mental health research related to rural Chinese older adults from 2000 till now and explore the direction of future research in China.

Methods: We used the Web of Science (WoS) core collection database for this study and limited the articles published between January 2000 and March 2022. A total of 287 items were retrieved from WOS using the following terms: ((“mental health”) AND (“older” OR “elderly”) AND (“Chinese” OR “China”) AND ("rural"). Excluding conference abstracts and proceedings resulted in 274 articles for final analysis. We used the CiteSpace software to cluster and summarize the large quantities of bibliometric data to present the state of the intellectual structure and emerging trends of the research topic.

Results: Most generally, studies on the mental health of rural older adults have an upsurge since 2018. The increase of studies covered themes including cognitive health, self-rated health, severe mental illness, social determinants, bachelor men in rural areas, and behavioral change. Mental health, social support, and depressive symptoms were the most frequently used keywords within the 22 years. Furthermore, our results also highlighted more focus on the mental health research in recent years involving empty-nested older people, fringe benefits, filial piety, and community aging. The most vigorous citation bursts, including community, disorder, duration, risk factors, chronic disease, and care, demonstrated that studies on rural older adults’ mental health had the diversity in the coverage.

Conclusions and Implications: To our knowledge, this is the first study using the bibliometric method to analyze the general trend of mental health studies in Chinese older adults. The fact that these themes have spread into different topics, including cognitive health, severe mental illness, and depression, suggests studies have progressed into these previously understudied mental health issues. Meanwhile, the increase of studies on topics including social determinants, bachelor men in rural areas, social support, and care revealed more attention to the social relationship. These two themes demonstrate that studies on Chinese rural older adults have moved to health as a new study trend. A concurrent movement emphasizes social support and social determinants of health and mental health. The emerging mental health theme suggests the importance of mental health issues among rural older adults, which could contribute to the policy changes and social benefits regarding the rural older adults. Furthermore, studies on the importance and possible changes in social support systems in rural areas are likely to cover with studies on mental health.