Psychological problems in China in the era of transformation


The purpose of this study is to reach a better understanding of how minor psychological problems (MPP) are perceived in China by well-educated Chinese. An exploratory qualitative design is used. The results are based on interviews with professionals and students practicing Chinese medicine (TCM) and lay people from three urban sites. Minor psychological problems have traditionally not been labelled as disorders or illnesses but challenges in daily living or as “heart problems” and seemed to have less serious consequences than we are accustomed to think from a modern western outlook. “Problems of life” rather than sickness was the category that best summarized perceptions of such problems among the Chinese. It points to a salutogenetic perspective reflecting perception of mental health and MPP as processes of adaption and interpretation of meaning rather than medical conditions or sickness. Due to the influence from the West these problems are, however, more often comprehended as a health problems or even sickness, and not solely natural problems of life.

Share and Cite:

Kolstad, A. and Gjesvik, N. (2012) Psychological problems in China in the era of transformation. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 2, 147-156. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2012.22020.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Yan, Y. (2003) Private life under Socialism. Love, intimacy and family change in a Chinese village 1949-1999. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
[2] Yan, Y. (2006) Little emperors or frail pragmatists? China’s 80ers generation. Current History, 105, 255-262.
[3] Gao, Y. (2001) Directive approach to telephone councelling in the People’s Rebublic of China: Underlying cultural traditions and transitions. The Councelling Psychologist, 29, 435-453.
[4] Huang, J. (2000) Traditions and transformation. A research into the change of interpersonal relations in Dujia. University of Bergen, Bergen.
[5] Fong, V.L. (2004) Only hope. Coming of age under china’s one-child policy. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
[6] Rolandsen, U.M.H. (2004). In pursuit of education. Attitudes towards education in a rural Chinese township. Master’s, Thesis. University of Oslo, Oslo.
[7] Bakken, B. (1994) The exemplary society: Human improvement, social control and the dangers of modernity in China. Universitet i Oslo, Oslo. Institutt for Sosiologi, ISO-Rapport nr. 9.
[8] King, V.T. (2008) The sociology of Southeast Asia. Transformations in a developing region. Nias Press, Copenhagen.
[9] Chu, G.C. (1985) The emergence of the new Chinese culture. In: Tseng, W.-S. and Wu, D.Y.H., Eds, Chinese Culture and Mental Health, Academic Press, Orlando.
[10] Liao, B.P. (2000) From the “god and ghost” world to the “human and nature” world: Study of the changes of health care in Yongxing Village in China. University of Oslo, Oslo.
[11] Durkheim, E. (1897/1991) Selvmordet: En sosiologisk undersokelse. Gyldendal, Oslo.
[12] Galtung, J. (1995) On the social costs of modernization. Social disintegration atomie/anomie and social development. Discussion Paper 61 (DP61). UN Research Institute for Social Development, Geneve.
[13] He, P. (2002) China’s search for modernity. Cultural discourses in the late 20th century. Palgrave Macmillan, Oxford.
[14] Nisbett, R.E. (2005) The geography of thought. How Asians and Westerners think differently and why. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, Boston.
[15] Lin, K.-M. (1981) Traditional Chinese medical beliefs and their relevance for mental illness and psychiatry. In: Kleinman, A. and Lin, T.-Y., Eds., Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Chinese Culture, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, 95-111
[16] Lindhoff, H. and Rydholm, L. (2007) Media cultures and globalization in China. Stockholm Media Studies: 1, Proceedings Form a Cross-Disciplinary Conference in Stockholm 2004, Stockholm.
[17] Milwertz, C. (2002) Organizing for change. A new wave of Chinese women’s movement. NIAS Report Series, No. 40, NIAS Press, Kobenhavn.
[18] Thorsen, K. and Toverud, R. (2002) Kulturpsykologi. Bevegelser i et livslop. Uniforlaget, Oslo.
[19] Hampton N.Z., Yeung, T. and Nguyen, C.H. (2007) Perceptions of mental illness and rehabilitation service in Chinese and Vietnamese Americans. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 38, 14-48.
[20] Heimer, M. and Th?gersen, S. (2006) Doing fieldwork in China. NIAS Press, Copenhagen.
[21] Patton, M.Q. (1990) Purposeful sampling I: Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Sage, London, 169-186.
[22] Tseng, W.-S. and Wu, D.Y.H. (1985) Chinese culture and mental health. Academic Press, Orlando.
[23] Yip, K-S. (2005) Chinese concepts of mental health: Cultural implications for social work practice. International Social Work, 48, 391. doi:10.1177/0020872805053462
[24] Kim, B.S.K. and Omizo, M.M. (2003) Asian cultural values, attitudes toward seeking professional help, and willingness to see a councelor. The Counseling Psychologist, 31, 343-361. doi:10.1177/0011000003031003008
[25] Lai, G. and Lee, R.P.L. (2006) Market reforms and psychological distress in urban Beijing. International Sociology, 21, 551-579. doi:10.1177/0268580906065301
[26] Lian, O.D. (2003) N?r helse blir en vare. Hoyskole Forlaget, Kristiansand
[27] Helman, C.G. (2007) Culture, health and illness. 5th Edition, Hodder Arnold, London.
[28] Armstrong, T.L. and Swartzman, L.C. (2001) Crosscultural differences in illness models and expectations for the health-care provider-client/patient interaction. Hand- book of Cultural Health Psychology, Academic Press, London, San Diego, 63-84.
[29] Lin, Y. (1998) My country and my people. Foreign Language and Research Press, Beijing.
[30] Wong, C.-K., Lo, V.L. and Tang, K-L. (2006) China’s urban health care reform. From state protection to individual responsibility. Lexington Books, Lanham.
[31] Chen, N.N. (2001) Health wealth and the good life. In: Chen, N.N., Clark, C.D., Gottshang, S.Z. and Jeffery, L. Eds., China Urban Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture, Duke University Press, Durham, London, 165-182.
[32] Yang, T. (2006) Introduction: Reform of the public health system requires that the public share responsibility. Social Sciences in China, 27, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Beijing.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.