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Power linked to long life in China

18th February 2008

Death rates for Chinese aged 50 and older are 30% higher in the countryside than in the city, but why? According to an article in the Journal of Gerontology, cadre or public official status - more common in urban areas - plays a key role in mortality.

Grandmother1

Chinese adults who are cadres, or public officials who hold responsible or managerial positions in the party and government, showed a markedly lower risk of death.

Chinese cadres routinely enjoy privileges well beyond what the average citizen might expect, the article found, such as better access to health services, housing, and jobs. In addition to serving as a proxy for socioeconomic factors and access to health services, cadre status may also confer psychological benefits by lowering stress and bolstering feelings of self-control and self-worth.

"Researchers have long recognised the link between socioeconomic status and health in many countries," Toshiko Kaneda, co-author of the study and a policy analyst at the Washington, DC-based Population Reference Bureau, said. "The significance of the cadre status effect on mortality highlights how important it is to look at the impact of culturally specific measures of socioeconomic status."

At the community level, amenities within the community and the average wage for an ordinary male worker were important factors behind the urban advantage. Urban communities on average offer higher wages and more amenities than rural communities. These critical amenities were, in order, telegraph service, electricity, telephone service, and paved roads - many of which allow older people to access formal or informal care, enhancing older adults’ ability to travel to health care facilities and to remain in touch with their children.

 

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