Few studies to date have examined psychological sequelae of natural disasters among the elderly in China. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence rates of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression in the elderly survivors a year after the Wenchuan earthquake as well as to analyse related risk factors. The community-based sample of the study consisted of 284 elderly survivors (≥60 years). PTSD was assessed by the PTSD Checklist—Civilian version, and anxiety and depression were assessed by the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist. In total, the estimated prevalence rates of probable PTSD, anxiety and depression were 26.3%, 42.9% and 35.2%, respectively. Nearly a fifth of the elderly participants reported symptoms that meet the criteria for all three of these mental disorders. Results indicated that some factors associated with earthquake-exposure intensity, which included loss of livelihood, bereavement, injury and initial fear during the earthquake, were among the significant risk factors for these mental disorders. Women had a higher risk of suffering from probable anxiety as compared to men. Finally, the significance and limitations of this study were also discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.