Emigration of children to urban areas can protect parents against depression

December 03, 2012

Parents whose children move far away from home are less likely to become depressed than parents with children living nearby, according to a new study of rural districts in Thailand. The study, led by scientists at King's College London, suggests that children who migrate to urban areas are more likely to financially support their parents, which may be a factor for lower levels of depression.

Dr Melanie Abas, lead author from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's said: 'Parents whose children had all left the district were half as likely to be depressed as parents who still had one of more child living in the district. Although our study was conducted in Thailand, the findings are similar to previous studies in China.'

In Thailand traditionally children take responsibility for ageing parents. Local concerns that rising rates of rural-urban migration across South East Asia might have a negative impact on families and that older parents might experience loneliness, isolation and depression, have now been debunked by this research led by King's .

Protection against 'empty-nest syndrome'

The authors explain that parents can protect themselves from the so-called empty-nest syndrome. Dr Abas said: 'We found several protective factors against the empty-nest syndrome, some similar to those we see in the UK and US. Living in close-knit communities, seeing their children regularly at family gatherings or holidays and the feeling that they had succeeded as parents by having a self-sufficient child living and working in the city all helped against the empty-nest syndrome.'

However, one of the key protective factors - unique to lower and middle income countries - is the effect of children sending money home. 'In a country with a less developed welfare system, this makes an important difference to older parents' lives', Abas says.

In collaboration with the Mahidol University and Thammasat University, both in Thailand, researchers from King's studied nearly 1,000 parents aged 60 or over from 100 villages in rural Thailand to understand the effect of child migration on parents' depression.

Around 27 percent of the parents who had at least one child living close by - within the district - usually more than 100 kilometres away, had a depression, compared to 16 percent of those with all children living far from home - outside the district. One year later, 24 percent of parents with at least one child living within the district had a depression, compared to 9 percent of those with all children living outside the district.

Rates of depression varied as children moved out and back in to the district: 33 percent of those who had a child move back to the district were depressed compared to 20 percent of those who did not experience any child movement during the follow-up year.

Dr Sureeporn Punpuing, co-author from the Mahidol Univerity in Thailand explained: 'We found that there were two main reasons children returned home. Children either returned home because something had gone wrong in their own lives, such as divorce or job loss, adding to parents worries or because of their parents' declining mental or physical health.'
-end-
CONTACT
Katherine Barnes
International PR Manager
King's College London
Tel: +44 207 848 3076
Email: katherine.barnes@kcl.ac.uk

Paper reference: Abas, M. et al. "Migration of children and impact on depression in older parents in rural Thailand, South East Asia" Archives of General Psychiatry (December 2012)

About King's College London (www.kcl.ac.uk)

King's College London is one of the top 30 universities in the world (2012/13 QS international world rankings), and was The Sunday Times 'University of the Year 2010/11', and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 24,000 students (of whom more than 10,000 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and more than 6,100 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £525 million (year ending 31 July 2011).

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King's College London

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.