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Qual Life Res. 2008 Aug;17(6):823-30. doi: 10.1007/s11136-008-9370-1. Epub 2008 Jul 2.

Life satisfaction in a sample of empty-nest elderly: a survey in the rural area of a mountainous county in China.

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The Training Department, The Second Military Medical University, 800 Xiangyin Road, Shanghai 200433, People's Republic of China.



To estimate the life satisfaction and its predictors between the empty-nest and not-empty-nest elderly.


A semi-structured questionnaire including socio-demographic characteristics, physical health, and the Life Satisfaction Index (LSI), UCLA Loneliness Scale (UCLA-LS), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) was administered to 275 empty-nest and 315 not-empty-nest rural elderly in a Chinese county. Linear regression analysis was used to examine the predictors of LSI score.


The empty-nest elderly had lower life satisfaction, lower income, poorer relationships with children, less social support, higher prevalence of chronic diseases, and more feelings of depression and loneliness compared to the not-empty-nest elderly. "Empty-nest status" was negatively related with life satisfaction. Depression was the strongest predictor of life satisfaction in both groups. The second strongest predictor was loneliness among the empty-nest group, while it was chronic diseases among the not-empty-nest group. Marital status and income were correlated with life satisfaction only among the empty-nest elderly.


The empty-nest elderly were likely to have mental health problems and to feel unsatisfied with their life. These findings also emphasize the importance of mental health as the determinant of life satisfaction among the empty-nest elderly.

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