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The association between early reproductive events and health status in later life has always been of interest across disciplines. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether there was an association between the number of children born in the early years of elderly women and their depression in later life based on a sample of older women aged 65 years and above with at least one child in rural China. Data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey in 2018, this study used the ordinary least square method to conduct empirical research. This study has found a significant correlation between an increase in the number of children and depression in older rural women. When considering the sex of the child, the number of daughters had a greater and more significant impact on depression. Number of children may exacerbate depression of older women through declining self-rated health and reduced social activity, while increased inter-generational support alleviated depression. The association between number of children born and depression also existed in urban older women, though not significant. Therefore, it is suggested to accelerate the improvement of supporting policies related to childbirth, developing a healthy and scientific fertility culture, and improving rural maternal and child health services. Women should be assisted in balancing their roles in the family and in society, and in particular in sharing the burden of caring for children. Targeted efforts to increase old-age protection for older people.
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