Decomposing socioeconomic inequalities in depressive symptoms among the elderly in China

Yongjian Xu, Jinjuan Yang, Jianmin Gao, Zhongliang Zhou, Tao Zhang, Jianping Ren, Yanli Li, Yuyan Qian, Sha Lai, Gang Chen

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67 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Accelerated population ageing brings about unprecedented challenges to the health system in China. This study aimed to measure the prevalence and the income-related inequality of depressive symptoms, and also identify the determinants of depressive symptom inequality among the elderly in China. Methods: Data were drawn from the second wave of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). Depressive symptoms were assessed with a 10-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D), which was preselected in CHARLS. The concentration index was used to measure the magnitude of income-related inequality in depressive symptoms. A decomposition analysis, based on the logit model, was employed to quantify the contribution of each determinant to total inequality. Results: More than 32.55% of the elderly in China had depressive symptoms. Women had a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms than men. The overall concentration index of depressive symptoms was -0.0645 among the elderly, indicating that depressive symptoms are more concentrated among the elderly who lived in economically disadvantaged situations, favoring the rich. Income was found to have the largest percentage of contribution to overall inequality, followed by residents' location and educational attainment. Conclusion: The prevalence of depressive symptoms in the elderly was considerably high in China. There was also a pro-rich inequality in depressive symptoms amongst elderly Chinese. It is suggested that some form of policy and intervention strategies, such as establishing the urban-rural integrated medical insurance scheme, enhancing the medical assistance system, and promoting health education programs, is required to alleviate inequitable distribution of depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1214
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Concentration index
  • Decomposition analysis
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Health inequality


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