Educational Status and Changes in Functional Health: The Case of Older Adults in Beijing, China

Toshiko Kaneda, Population Council
Zachary Zimmer, Population Council
Zhe Tang, Beijing Municipal Network for Health & Care of the Elderly

This paper first examines the association between education and changes in functional health among older adults (55+) in Beijing between 1992 and 1997 and tests if the association varies by age. It then examines the role of psychosocial factors in mediating the relationship between education and functional health transitions. Our findings show that education results in more favorable functional transitions among those who initially had no functional limitations. Unlike in the United States, there is no indication that the effect of education declines with age. This likely reflects the underdeveloped nature of welfare programs for the elderly in China. Psychosocial factors do account for a substantial proportion of the total effect of education on functional changes. Our results highlight the importance of self-efficacy and social relationships in mediating the effect of education on health transitions. Health behaviors and stressful life events, however, play little role in mediating the effect.

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Presented in Session 53: Health and Mortality in Developing Countries