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Provincial income inequality and self-reported health status in China during 1991–7


Background: The relationship between income inequality and health has been widely explored. Today there is some evidence suggesting that good health is inversely related to income inequality. After the economic reforms initiated in the early 1980s, China experienced one of the fastest-growing income inequalities in the world. The state of China in the 1990s is focussed on and possible effects of provincial income inequality on individual health status are explored.

Methods: A multilevel regression model is used to analyse the data collected in 1991, 1993 and 1997 from nine provinces included in the China Health and Nutrition Survey. The effects of provincial Gini coefficients on self-rated health in each year are evaluated by two logistic regressions estimating the odds ratios of reporting poor or fair health. The patterns of this effect are compared among the survey years and also among different demographic groups.

Results: The analyses show an independent effect of income inequality on self-reported health after adjusting for individual and household variables. Furthermore, the effect of income distribution is not attenuated when household income and provincial gross domestic product per capita are included in the model. The results show that there is an increased risk of about 10–15% on average for fair or poor health for people living in provinces with greater income inequalities compared with provinces with modest income inequalities.

Conclusions: In China, societal income inequality appears to be an important determinant of population health during 1991–7.

  • CHNS, China Health and Nutrition Survey
  • GDP, gross domestic product

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