Welfare Participation and Depression Symptoms Among Youth in China

Shiyou Wu, Mark W. Fraser, Qin Gao, Mimi V. Chapman, Jin Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Although welfare programs in China provide a safety net for low-income people by directly lifting their incomes, receiving benefits has the potential to affect recipients’ mental health because of the demanding and demeaning means-testing application process required by Chinese policymakers. However, little research has examined the relationship between welfare participation and mental health symptoms—particularly those of depression—among Chinese youth. This study aims to examine the relationship between family participation in the Dibao income-assistance program in China and symptoms of depression among youth. Methods: This study used a youth sample (n = 4192) of nationally representative data from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) survey. Multiple imputation was used to deal with missing data. The imputed data were analyzed using aggregated robust multiple regression. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D-20) scale was used to measure depression symptoms. In addition, a variety of subgroup analyses were conducted to explore whether the relationship between Dibao participation and symptoms of depression differs significantly by the sociodemographic characteristics. Results: Youth whose families received Dibao assistance had significantly greater risk for symptoms of depression when compared with peers who did not receive assistance. Results also showed that young women—and especially young mothers—whose families participated in the Dibao program in rural areas were at significantly higher risk compared with others. Conclusion and Discussion: The relationship between welfare participation and symptoms of depression varies significantly by the characteristics of youths and their families. As a marker for collective disadvantage and adversity, welfare participation warrants research to study program processes and to distinguish pathways—possibly differentiated by gender—that may elevate risk for depression among Dibao program recipients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Social Welfare
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • CFPS
  • China
  • Depression
  • Rural
  • Welfare
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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