Elderly Suicide and Generational Exploitation in Rural China

By: Jingxi Deng  

Elderly suicide has become an increasingly social problem in mainland China. This study analyzes the suicide of rural elderly people from the perspective of social competition and intergenerational relations. Through fieldwork, the imbalance of resource allocation caused by social differentiation has been observed. Rather unprivileged peasants are more likely to transfer the pressure of social competition to the elderly family members through intergenerational exploitation. Once the elderly can no longer create value, cannot take care of themselves, or suffer from disease, they become a burden and cumbersome to their descendants; thus they are apt to commit suicide for the pressure and also the consideration of the younger generation. Their value is determined by the cost and benefit in taking care of them. Meanwhile, in order to justify the exploitation towards the elder generation since it’s against traditional Chinese morality, the mechanism of “demoralization” came into being through the daily language of fellow villagers. This has eased the moral burden on the younger generation and made it “normal” to treat the elderly in such a way.

Social differentiation; Social competition; Rural population; Intergenerational relations; Elderly suicide
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Focused Discussion

Jingxi Deng

Doctoral Student, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University, Japan