Chinese woman, 27, develops severe anxiety due to parents' constant demands to get married

A handout photo. A woman in China felt so pressured by her parents constant demands she get married she developed anxiety disorder and breathing problems.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A 27-year-old woman in China has been diagnosed with severe anxiety as a result of relentless pressure from her parents to find a man and get married.

The story has been picked up by Chinese news outlets and gone viral on mainland social media, receiving 260 million views on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform.

The woman, from Jinan in Shandong province in eastern China, recently went to a local hospital after experiencing a panic attack with difficulty breathing, numbness, and twitching limbs, reported news outlet Shanhai Video.

She was diagnosed with anxiety and told that her difficulty breathing was resulted from respiratory alkalosis caused by low blood carbon dioxide levels due to rapid breathing such as hyperventilating.

The woman's doctor Chen Liang said her symptoms began after a heated argument with her parents about her getting married.

"She told us that her parents had repeatedly pressed her to marry," Chen said. "Eventually, she couldn't take it any longer and had a big fight with them."

"After the argument, she felt her chest tighten, so she took quick and deep breaths."

According to Chen, most patients with respiratory alkalosis also have anxiety disorders.

"Treatment for this type of patient is very simple," Chen said. "They can put on a face mask to help regulate breathing, and people must try to calm them and help ease their anxiety."

Chen also reminded people experiencing anxiety and respiratory alkalosis to seek medical attention immediately if their symptoms do not improve.

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Many people online sympathised with the woman's plight and recognised the unbearable pressure from parents for young people in China to get married.

"I already sent the video to my mother," one person commented. "Hopefully, I can have a few days of peace and quiet."

Another asked: "Isn't it normal to be single at 27 or 28 nowadays? More freedom should be given to children by their parents."

It is becoming more common to marry later in China, and there has been an ongoing decline in the number of registered marriages for almost a decade.

After peaking at 13.5 million new marriages in 2013, the number of newly registered marriages has been steadily declining for the past eight years. There were only 7.6 million registered marriages in 2021, suggesting that only about five people out of 1,000 married, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The "late marriage" trend of people tying the knot between the ages of 25 and 29 has become the norm in China these days. Previously, most people married between 20 and 24.

However, getting married early in China is considered an important part of fulfilling one's obligations to their parents - an expectation most common among older generations.

The resulting pressure on children to marry is often a major source of contention in families.

In 2016, a 28-year-old woman who couldn't bear her family's pressure for her to get married and have a child stabbed herself in the stomach after a heated argument with her mother.

"I especially hate the uterus - a big shackle to women," she said at the time.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.