Surviving the famine unscathed? An analysis of the long-term health effects of the Great Chinese Famine

Wenli Cheng, Hui Shi

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We study the long-term health effects of the Chinese Famine of 1959–1961 on five cohorts of individuals exposed to it at different stages of their early lives. Based on a 2011 national survey, we use instrumental variables to estimate the impact of the Famine on various health and lifestyle indicators for the whole sample and for the female and male subsamples separately. We have found some negative effects of Famine exposure: (i) for the whole sample, Famine exposure reduced adult height for two out of five cohorts; (ii) for both the female and the male subsamples, Famine exposure reduced adult height in one cohort; and on the whole the reduction was larger for males. We have also found in the subsample that Famine exposure was associated with (i) a higher risk of having hypertension in one cohort for females; (ii) a higher likelihood of smoking in one male cohort; and (iii) a higher probability of consuming alcohol in one cohort for males. Finally, we have not found a statistically significant association between Famine exposure and the risk of being overweight or underweight, having diabetes or other chronic diseases, having depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-772
Number of pages27
JournalSouthern Economic Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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