Differences in depressive symptoms between rural and urban Chinese labor force: The mediating effects of community factors

Wanlian Li, Fei Sun, Steven Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: This study aimed to examine differences in depressive symptoms between urban and rural workers in mainland China and to identify community factors that could contribute to such residential differences. Methods: This study used nationally representative data from the 2014 China’s Labor Force Dynamic Survey. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews on a sample of 22,073 participants from 29 provinces of China, including 15,098 rural workers (Mage = 44.92, standard deviation (SD) = 14.85) and 6,975 urban workers (Mage = 43.28, SD = 13.62). Mediators included community cohesion, foreseeable community threat, supportive network size and medical benefit coverage. Mediation analyses were conducted using Hayes’ SPSS Macro Process for multiple mediators. Results: Urban participants reported fewer depressive symptoms than their rural counterparts. Lower levels of community cohesion, higher community foreseeable threat and poorer medical coverage were related to fewer depressive symptoms. Rural–urban differences were mediated by community cohesion (B = −0.12, p <.01), foreseeable community threat (B = −0.08, p <.01) and medical benefit coverage (B = 0.25, p <.01). Conclusion: This study sheds light on distinctive roles of community factors in explaining rural–urban differences in depressive symptoms. Policies or programs should be designed to promote strengths and address weaknesses in rural communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-325
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Rural–urban disparities
  • community cohesion
  • community supportive network size
  • community threat
  • depressive symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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