‘Devalued product’: China mother plunges into depression over feeling inferior about unmarried 30-something daughter, sparks online debate

A doctor in China has told how a mother he treated struggled with depression because her only daughter – in her 30s – was not yet married, renewing a discussion on social media about the intense pressure young people face to tie the knot.

The doctor, Gao Panyue, from Jiangsu province in eastern China, told Jiangsu Television that she diagnosed the 59-year-old woman, surnamed Zhao, with depression because she was worrying too much about her daughter’s lack of marriage prospects.

Gao said Zhao felt inferior to others and thought her community was gossiping about her because her daughter was still single.

The mother had been consistently fighting with her daughter about getting married and typically cried when she failed to convince her introverted child to find a partner.

The worried mother’s condition is said to have improved after she received hospital treatment. Photo: Weibo/Our Jiangsu

Gao said the mother’s condition had improved after she received hospital treatment.

Zhao’s predicament has reignited an online debate about the pressure to get married that many young Chinese receive from their parents.

“A typical form of Chinese depression is that a parent worries over their daughters being single, not having a second child, or even being childless,” one person said on Weibo.

“I feel suffocated just watching this report,” said another woman.

“My father has a similar condition, he blames me being single for his insomnia,” said a third.

The marriage rate in China hit a record low last year, with only 6.83 million couples getting married. It marked the ninth straight year of annual decline from 13.47 million marriages in 2013.

The last time the number of couples getting married was so low was in 1979 when 6.37 million couples registered for marriage.

On the Chinese Instagram-like platform, Xiaohongshu, one woman said that she preferred to remain single if she could not find true love because “marriage is like icing on the cake, but the individual needs to be delicious first.”

Her attitude reflected a growing phenomenon among younger generations who attach more importance to their independence and personal development.

For them, getting married is not the “final settlement” or “safe harbour” that their parents typically believe it to be.

Younger generations in China often do not place the same importance on marriage as their elders. Photo: Shutterstock

In 2021, a young woman was diagnosed with depression because of the pressure she faced from her family to get married.

The woman, in her 30s, suffered from severe depression after her father called her a “devalued product” because she was single, a doctor from Hangzhou Shulan Hospital told local media outlet Tianmu News.

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing them, help is available. In Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page

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