Older people’s psychosocial needs in a post-disaster rural community of China: an exploratory study

Ke Cui, Boon Wee Timothy Sim

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Older people are arguably one of the most vulnerable groups during a disaster. Existing studies either in China or in other countries predominantly focus on the more Western, pathology-based mental health approach in addressing the impact of disasters on older victims and their needs. However, the concept of ‘psychosocial’ recognises that problems caused by emergencies can simultaneously be of a social nature and a psychological one. This concept emerged from a growing critique on individual oriented mental health approach in disaster contexts. The present study was conducted to explore older people’s needs from a psychosocial perspective. The research site was a Chinese rural community located in the epicentre of ‘5.12’ Wenchuan earthquake (Ms = 8.0) occurred in 2008. The authors conducted content analyses on the qualitative in-depth interviews with 10 (5 males and 5 females) out of 30 older persons from this community. The findings revealed three major psychosocial problems: (1) constant fear of recurring debris flows; (2) sense of helplessness; and (3) disruption to previous social network. Indubitably, the participants reported family members and neighbours as their major sources of social support in emergency situations. This exploratory study argues that older people being exposed to disasters will not only develop psychological problems but also suffer disruption to their social support network and puts forward that empowering family and strengthening community cohesion are important initiatives for helping professionals to promote older people’s psychosocial well-being and enhance their resilience to natural disasters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1577-1590
Number of pages14
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Older people
  • Post-disaster community
  • Psychosocial needs assessment
  • Qualitative study
  • Rural China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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