Spring Festival has come and gone, and for many old people the happy memories are mixed with ill effects.
Old people who live alone or whose children reside abroad or in other cities are particularly vulnerable to the mental and physical symptoms of "empty nest" syndrome.
Luo Wenxiu, 61, lives alone in Yichang city, Hubei province; her only son lives and works in Beijing.
"We talk on the phone for a couple of minutes every week," Luo says.
"I understand that he is busy and often works late."
Luo lives an interesting and fulfilling life. She dances, trades stocks, and plays computer games. She says she is happy with her life. But when her son came home for Spring Festival and then left, she felt sad.
"I tried to get back into my regular routine, but it was difficult," she says. Many of her friends have the same problem, she adds.
"Mental health is a concern for old people in‘empty nest' families," says Pang Yu, a psychologist and vice director of Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, one of the leading mental hospitals in Beijing.
The effects of "empty nest" syndrome are stronger in certain groups of old people, such as those with dependent personalities, and at certain times, such as after a reunion with their loved ones, Pang notes.
"Be patient if the parents call a lot, because that is a signal that they are trying to adjust to being alone again," he says.
Some sadness is normal, Pang says. But if the parents start losing sleep or if there is noticeable change in their personalities, it is advisable to seek help.
Doctors say that after Spring Festival, they see an increase in elderly patients suffering from both physical and psychological symptoms.
"Old people are vulnerable. Too much excitement or overtiredness can increase the chance of both heart and brain disease," says Miao Lifu, a cardiologist with the First Hospital of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Cold weather and emotional changes - either the joy of a family reunion or the sadness of the goodbyes - can make the blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure and the incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Spring Festival brings out behavioral problems as well. Out of superstition or to avoid making their children worry, many old people decide not to take their medicine; others won't go to the hospital even if they suddenly feel ill. Spring Festival may worsen the situation, especially in cases of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, says Xu Yushen, a cardiovascular disease specialist with Beijing Tongren Hospital.
"The elderly need to lead a healthy lifestyle and remain in good spirits; children should be considerate and remain alert to their parents' health status," Xu says.