June 23, 2004 | Press Release

Self-rated health status is associated with social and demographic factors. A study on the oldest-old in China

Self-rated health has proved to be a meaningful indicator measuring the health status of the oldest-old. To what extent are social and demographic factors related to the status of self-rated health, though? Studies on this subject so far have been based in the main on observations made in western countries. As self-rated health status is strongly connected with the cultural context, these works cannot be applied to the Chinese context. A study based on data from the 1998 Healthy Longevity Survey in China and conducted by Guiping Liu and Zhen Zhang from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock suggests that social and demographic factors are closely associated with the self-rated health status of Chinese oldest-old (80 years and older). The study was recently published in Population Research & Policy Review (23(2):117-133, 2004 April).

They find that age group, sex, living arrangements, educational attainment, and occupational history are significantly linked with that status. Males rated a better health status than did females. Elderly aged 100 years and over (centenarians) reported a more positive health status than did persons aged 80 to 89 (octogenarians) and 90 to 99 years (nonagenarians). Older persons living with family members tended to estimate their health status as good. Their counterparts of higher education were more health optimistic, and non-agricultural professionals reported more positively their health status than did farm labors.

The authors conclude that elderly of lower social status tended to evaluate their health status as negative, given the same degree of physical condition.

Diagram: Odds-ratio of reporting good health (centenarians=1)

About the MPIDR

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock investigates the structure and dynamics of populations. The Institute’s researchers explore issues of political relevance, such as demographic change, aging, fertility, and the redistribution of work over the life course, as well as digitization and the use of new data sources for the estimation of migration flows. The MPIDR is one of the largest demographic research bodies in Europe and is a worldwide leader in the study of populations. The Institute is part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research organization.

Original publication

Liu, G. and Z. Zhang: Sociodemographic differentials of the self-rated health of the oldest-old Chinese. Population Research & Policy Review 23(2004)2, 117-133. DOI:10.1023/B:POPU.0000019921.20777.1b


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.