Living with a spouse can improve the health of Chinese elderly

February 5, 2009,

(PhysOrg.com) -- Much older people in China—one of the world's largest populations—are healthier if they live with a spouse, a new University of Michigan study shows.

The study found that living arrangements can predict mortality, personal care ability and self-rated health among Chinese age 80 and older. In addition, living arrangements affect men and women differently, in terms of mortality.

"Our findings suggest that with whom older Chinese live (or do not live) matters to their health," said Lydia Li, an associate professor in the U-M School of Social Work and the study's lead author. "In the past decade, significant changes in living arrangements among older persons in China have been observed. Policymakers should keep close attention to these changes as they have implications for population health."

The study's sample began with more than 9,000 Chinese respondents whose ages ranged from 77 to 122 years old. More than half were re-interviewed two years after the baseline. In addition to reporting background information, such as age, ethnicity and gender, the respondents answered questions about their household composition, health and ability to perform personal care activities.

Relative to older Chinese who lived alone, those living with a spouse or with a spouse and children were less likely to die at follow-up. Men living in an institution also had lower mortality risk than men living alone, but this wasn't the case for women. Men probably benefited from the care and support provided by institutions more than women, Li says.

Respondents not living with a spouse, but living instead with children, others or in institutions were more likely to have problems in carrying out personal care activities, such as dressing, eating and using the toilet, compared with those living alone.

But older Chinese living with children had better self-rated health than those living alone. This may be related to the fulfillment of a cultural ideal as well as the receipt of support in an intergenerational household, Li says.

Li wrote the study with Jiaan Zhang, a U-M social work graduate student, and Jersey Liang, a professor in the School of Public Health. Their findings appear in the latest issue of Social Science & Medicine.

Provided by University of Michigan

Explore further: Study: Many parents of children with disabilities don't make care plans

Related Stories

Study: Many parents of children with disabilities don't make care plans

February 9, 2018
Fewer than half of parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities make long-term plans about who will take over their child's care if the parent or other relative providing care dies or becomes incapacitated, ...

Aging with an intellectual disability—new longitudinal report

December 7, 2017
Increased rates of important health screenings and access to GPs amongst people with an intellectual disability have been highlighted in a new report launched this week. These health gains, however, are potentially being ...

More than 15,000 frail elderly New Zealanders are lonely

December 14, 2017
More than 15,000 frail elderly identified as being lonely according to a world-first study of 72,000 older New Zealanders. That equates to one in five older people.

Who takes care of whom? Surprising new evidence

June 29, 2015
There has been much recent discussion in the press of the plight of the so-called "sandwich generation," that is, adults who are responsible for the care of children as well as aging parents. The need for simultaneous childcare ...

My father's keeper: Caring for a parent with dementia

January 24, 2014
(HealthDay)—Four years ago, Kate Phillips became a family caregiver without quite realizing what she was getting into.

Study: 'Living Room' offers alternative treatment for emotional distress

January 7, 2014
Emergency departments may not be the best choice for persons suffering from severe mental illness or emotional distress. According to a new qualitative study by DePaul University School of Nursing researchers, persons in ...

Recommended for you

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

Electronic health records don't reduce administrative costs

February 21, 2018
The federal government thought that adopting certified electronic health record systems (EHR) would reduce administrative costs for physicians in a variety of specialties. However, a major new study conducted by researchers ...

Low-fat or low-carb? It's a draw, study finds

February 20, 2018
New evidence from a study at the Stanford University School of Medicine might dismay those who have chosen sides in the low-fat versus low-carb diet debate.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.