Research in China Demonstrates Link Between Socioeconomic Conditions and Health in Older Adults

Researchers in the United States have commented for some time on the link between social and economic status and health. New research has found this same association in older adults in China; documenting the link between general health and socioeconomic (SES) conditions.

Yi and colleagues found that individual factors such as gross domestic product per capita, adult labor force participation, and illiteracy rate were significantly associated with physical, mental, and overall health among the older adults in China. Air pollution was also shown to negatively affect activities, cognitive capabilities, and health.

The study examined demographic characteristics, SES status, mental health, health practices, and environmental information for counties and cities in China. These factors were than compared to the 15,973 respondents.

A relationship between variables was found at the community level. SES factors and physical environmental factors were strongly predictive of a wide range of health outcomes. These outcomes included cognitive impairment, physical disability, health deficits and mortality. Interestingly, a lower activity level was found for older adults in communities with a higher per capita GDP. Older adults living in poorer neighborhoods may be forced into activity in seeking work, shopping for food, and dealing with their living arrangements.

Among all age groups, this study suggests that the older adults may be the most susceptible to the negative effects of the environment and economy.


Source: Zeng, Y., Gu, D., et al. Associations of Environmental Factors With Elderly Health and Mortality in China. American Journal of Public Health (2010) 100: 2, 298-306.

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