Social change, life course and health status in later life

JIAO Kaishan1 BAO Zhiming2

(1.School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University of China)
(2.School of Sociology, Yunnan Minzu University)

【Abstract】This study examines the relationship between the early life experiences and the health status of the elderly from the perspective of life course. The study finds that unfavorable living conditions during childhood have a significant impact on the health status of the elderly, but the degree of influence is significantly modified by the current socioeconomic status of the elderly. When the elderly have high socioeconomic status, the impact of unfavorable living conditions during childhood is weakened, or even disappeared. This means that the current socioeconomic status has a significant compensatory effect on the unfavorable living conditions during childhood. For the elderly with lower socioeconomic status, the effects of unfavorable living conditions during childhood are not compensated by the current socioeconomic status. The two factors overlap and strengthen each other, resulting in serious health problems. In addition, cohort analysis finds that among the elderly with lower socioeconomic status, the impact of unfavorable living conditions during childhood is larger for the later birth cohorts than the earlier ones. This paper analyzes and discusses the transformation of diseases and health patterns in China and how changes of health care system in different historical periods affect individual life trajectories.

【Keywords】 elderly people; cohort; accumulative disadvantage; compensatory mechanism; health status;


【Funds】 The National Social Science Fund of China (19BRK013)

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    [1]. (1) In terms of self-rated health, the elderly who are unanswerable are often those with serious health problems. Taking the cross-sectional survey data in 2002 as an example, it was found that the proportion of respondents who assessed their health as very bad and unanswerable was very close to that of those who suffered from disability in activities of daily living. For this reason, the two options were merged into one in this study. [^Back]

    [2]. (2) The score variable of socioeconomic status obtained from the model is a latent variable. For a detailed introduction of this model, readers can refer to relevant literature (Ayala, 2008; Skrondal and Rabe-Hesketh, 2004). [^Back]

    [3]. (3) There is a special command called margins in STATA, which, based on the estimates of a certain model, can predict the results of a dependent variable under the given values of the independent variable. In addition to the predicted probability of very poor self-rated health under a given birth cohort and age value, the paper also calculates the predicted probability of poor self-rated health, but the two patterns are basically the same. Limited by the space, only the results of the former are presented in this article. [^Back]

    [4]. (4) Based on changes in mortality rate patterns, the epidemiological transition can be divided into three stages. (1) The stage of plague and famine. This stage is characterized by high mortality rate and its periodic fluctuations, which lead to short and changing life expectancy of the population, roughly 20–40 years. (2) The stage of epidemic recession. This phase is marked by a gradual decline in death from infectious diseases, with life expectancy prolonged to 50 years and a rapid increase in the total population. (3) The stage of degenerative and man-made diseases. The characteristics of this stage include: the mortality rate keeps decreasing until it stabilizes at a low level, life expectancy continues to increase to over 70 years old, and fertility rate becomes a key factor in population growth. Thus, it can be seen that the epidemiological transition is a continuous process of development that starts with the predominance of infectious diseases and ends with that of non-infectious ones. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 35, No. 01, Pages 149-169+245

January 2020


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Literature review
  • 3 Research methods
  • 4 Research results
  • 5 Conclusion and discussion
  • Footnote