Changes in the prevalence of chronic disability in China: evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study

N. Liu, D. A. Cadilhac, M. F. Kilkenny, Y. Liang

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Chinese adults are the biggest users of healthcare services, and understanding current trends in disability profiles is relevant to planning healthcare workforce infrastructure. We investigated the trends over time for disability and physical functional limitations from 2011 to 2015 among Chinese adults and identified the factors associated with these limitations. Study design: We used nationally representative data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS); the CHARLS participants were followed up every 2 years as they moved from work to retirement with an emphasis on their health status and functional abilities. Methods: Participants aged ≥50 years from three waves of the CHARLS were included. Data were collected on physical functioning limitations, disabilities in activities of daily living (ADLs) and disabilities in instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Multilevel logistic regression models were used to test for changes and factors associated with limitations and disabilities between 2011 and 2015 adjusting for sociodemographic, medical history and health measures. Results: There were 44,447 eligible participants (mean age: 63 years; standard deviation [SD], 9 years; 51% female). After adjustment, there was no significant increase in reporting of ADLs or IADLs in the 2015 survey compared with the 2011 survey. After adjustment, there was a 26% significant increase in reporting of physical functioning limitations in the 2015 survey compared with the 2011 survey (odds ratio: 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 1.17 to 1.35). Factors associated with ADL disability were being female, being older, minimal education, no alcohol intake in the previous year, falls, fractured hip, feeling depressed and being obese. Factors associated with IADL disabilities were being female, being older, minimal education and feeling depressed. Conclusions: Chinese health agencies should consider the growing need for sufficient community services infrastructure to maximise independence, particularly in the context of ageing populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Chinese population
  • Chronic disability
  • Healthcare workforce

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