Study Finds Environmental and Socioeconomic Factors are Related to Senior Health
In a recent study intending to find the relationship between environmental and socioeconomic factors as they relate to elderly health has found some very interesting relationships in the elderly population of China. Among the findings, it was discovered that a reduction of pollution and improvement of socioeconomic conditions is important for improving the health and safety of the elderly.
As of 2008, China represented about 20% of the World's Population and has been experiencing rapid population growth for many years. However, while experiencing rapid population growth, the ratio of elderly to young individuals is increasing at a dramatic rate.
In 2000, there were approximately 90 Million elderly Chinese, which includes those over the age of 65, and by 2030, this figure is expected to grow to around 250 Million.
Since China, like many other developing countries has also seen a sharp decline of environmental factors, often brought about by pollution, it is important to understand the relationship between the environment and elderly health, even more so due to the expected increase in the elderly population of China.
Data taken from the Chinese longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey of 2002 and 2005 was analyzed and compared to similar surveys in other developing nations. This survey included a number of different areas, such as the mental facilities of the citizens, general health and medical concerns, and their ability to preform activities of daily living, as well as their geographic location.
For the purpose of the study, seniors who were unable to preform the essential activities of daily living(ADL,) which include bathing, moving around, going to the bathroom and cleaning themselves, eating, and continence, were classified as being disabled physically. Similarly, those who scored under 60% of the mental questionnaire were classified as cognitively impaired.
The study found that both environmental and socioeconomic factors were directly related to the general health of the elderly population of China.
For example, seniors from communities that had a higher Gross Domestic Product(GDP) and lower rate of illiteracy were more likely to have improved cognitive function. Communities that had a more active labor force conversely had a lower rate of disabilities related to the Activities of Daily Life(ADL.)
Environmental factors were also very important indicators of senior health, with communities that had low qualities of water and increased air pollution subsequently having a higher rate of ADL Disabilities. In fact, it was found that air pollution increased the chance of developing a ADL Disability by 25%.
Another interesting finding was that the weather of the community was also a factor in the general physical and mental health of the individuals. In fact, having increased rainfall actually helped to protect the elderly, decreasing the chance of an ADL disability or a cognitive impairment. Low temperatures also were shown to improve the health of the elderly.
From the findings it was concluded that both economical and environmental factors are very important indicators of senior health, with reductions in GDP and a poorer environment both increasing the risk of ADL disabilities and Cognitive Impairments among the elderly.
When compared to other developing nations, the prevalence of a older work force also helps to improve the ability to preform activities of daily living.
The study confirms findings that improving environmental conditions would prevent between 15% and 37% of disease across the world, as well as preventing around 13 Million deaths each year. Further, the health of the elderly is tied to the health of the environment and the economic status of their community.
Source: American Journal of Public Health; Feb2010, Vol. 100 Issue 2, p298-305, 8p