Changing health status and health expectancies among older adults in China: gender differences from 1992 to 2002

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Jun;68(12):2170-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.03.031. Epub 2009 Apr 24.


Numerous studies document improvements in health status and health expectancies among older adults over time. However, most evidence is from developed nations and gender differences in health trends are often inconsistent. It remains unknown whether changes in health in developing countries resemble Western trends or whether patterns of health improvement are unique to the country's epidemiologic transition and gender norms. Using two nationally representative samples of non-institutionalized adults in China aged 65 years and older, this study investigates gender differences in the improvements in disability, chronic disease prevalence, and self-rated health from 1992 to 2002. Results from multivariate logistic regression models show that all three indicators of health improved over the 10-year period, with the largest improvement in self-rated health. With the exception of disability, the health of women improved more than men. Using Sullivan's decomposition methods, we also show that active life expectancy, disease-free life expectancy, and healthy life expectancy increased over this decade and were patterned differently according to gender. Overall, the findings demonstrate that China experienced broad health improvements during its early stages of the epidemiologic transition and that these changes were not uniform by gender. We discuss the public health implications of the findings in the context of China's rapidly aging population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • China / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Public Health
  • Sex Factors