With the stresses, pressures, and high expectations that Chinese women have to deal with on a daily basis, it is not surprising that more and more of them are becoming susceptible to depression. Stories of single Chinese women relocating from their hometown to the city, finding themselves with poor job prospects and having no family or friends to support them, and eventually becoming debilitated by clinical depression are becoming common in today’s China.
Better education and job opportunities can be found, of course, in the cities. When the government became more lax with local migration – from the rural to the urban areas – and made good quality education and stable work easily available to the rural population and Chinese women, in particular, the greatest human migration in history began, and it’s still ongoing.
As the growth of China’s economy eventually plateaued and then slowed down, as the number of Chinese women graduating from colleges and universities and looking for jobs increased, and as the cost of living in the cities increased, making a living has become more and more difficult. Indeed, unemployment in China has been steadily rising.
Those with stable jobs still find it very difficult to make ends meet, especially when a huge chunk of their monthly salary goes to rent. They barely have enough left for their basic needs, to send money to their parents, and most are unable to save for the future.
It’s a popular belief that because depression is associated with stress and women often live a low-stress life, they are less prone to depression. The circumstances that the women of China find themselves in nowadays, however, make them very vulnerable to this illness.
In Hong Kong, for instance, a survey revealed that 1.98 million people, or 35 percent of the population, are depressed; a huge fraction of this are young, Chinese women and homemakers. In the mainland, the high rates of suicide among Chinese women also point to the same problem: depression.
Most young Chinese women spent their childhood living with the constant pressure of proving their worth to their parents, many of whom still would have preferred a son rather than a daughter. Being the only child, they were expected to excel in everything they did, mostly to ensure their and their parents’ financial security in the future.
While some were expected to excel academically so that their “dating/marriage resume” would look great and they would be able to land a good husband soon after they graduated, others felt the pressure of finding a stable and well-paying job after graduation so they could start providing for their parents and saving for the future.
At the same time, these Chinese women are still constantly pressured by tradition to find a good partner to marry and to start a family. Conflicting and high expectations, financial difficulties, work-related stresses or the inability to find a good job, and filial obligations all combine to create a mental state that makes these women highly susceptible to clinical depression.
On top of all these stressors, women of China still suffer from gender discrimination, especially in the work place. A woman’s natural predisposition to hormonal fluctuations also contributes to her vulnerability to this psychological disorder.
Full-time wives/homemakers also often live unhappy and unfulfilled lives, especially with Chinese husbands’ tendencies to stray and be neglectful. Chinese homemakers devote their entire lives to taking care of their family; but nobody really takes care of them. They have little time for themselves, and much less to socialize.
Marrying foreign men can actually make things turn around for Chinese women, not because they can rely on foreign husbands to give them a comfortable life; but because these men are more supportive, considerate, and caring partners.
Of course, being in a healthy relationship with the right person is not a panacea to the trend of depression that is debilitating many Chinese women; they have to learn to adapt more effectively to the stresses they are exposed to. They have to develop the will and the strength to keep forging ahead despite the obstacles. But a loving partner by their side will certainly make a huge difference.
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