Changes in total and disability-free life ex-pectancy among older adults in China: Do they portend a compression of morbidity?

Zachary Zimmer, Mira Hidajat, Yasuhiko Saito

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to determine whether disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) in China has been increasing more rapidly than total life expectancy (TLE). Such a scenario would be consistent with a compression of morbidity, a situation that is especially desirable in a country experiencing rapid population aging and gains in old-age longevity. Us-ing the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Study, an exponential survival regression is used to calculate TLE. The Sullivan method is then employed for computing DFLE. Results for a 65 and older sample are compared across data collected during two periods, the first with a 2002 baseline and a 2005 follow-up (N=15,641) and the second with a 2008 baseline and a 2011 follow-up (N=15,622). The first comparison is by age and sex. The second comparison divides the sample further by rural/urban residence and education. The ratio of DFLE/TLE across periods provides evidence of whether older Chinese are living both longer and healthier lives. The findings are favorable for the total population aged 65+, but improvements are only statistically significant for females. Results also suggest heterogeneous compression occurring across residential status with the urban population experiencing more favorable changes than their rural counterparts. Results both portend a compression of morbidity and continuing dis-advantage for rural residents who may not be participating in population-wide improvements in health.

Keywords

aging; China; compression of morbidity; disability; life expectancy; longevity; mortality; Sullivan method

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18063/IJPS.2015.01.001
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