Market reforms and psychological distress in urban Beijing

Gina W F LAI*, Rance P.L. Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the change in psychological well-being among urban residents in Beijing, China, over a 10-year period of rapid social change. The findings suggest that urban reforms generate economic gains at the expense of urban residents' psychological well-being. Results from two community surveys conducted in 1991 and 2000 reveal that urban Beijing residents have experienced greater life stress and a rise in depressive symptoms during the 10-year period. The decline in psychological well-being between 1991 and 2000 can be partly explained by greater exposure of Beijing residents to life stressors in the course of rapid social changes associated with the urban reforms. The survey results also lend support to the social adjustment and stress explanation, but not the social relations and support explanation. Changes in social relations only marginally affect the change in depressive symptomatology, and the protective function of social relations, particularly relations with family and co-workers, has gained importance over the years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-579
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Depression
  • Social change
  • Social relations
  • Urban stress


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