Rural-urban differences in the long-term care of the disabled elderly in China.

Peer-reviewed article
(2013 Nov) PLoS One, 8 e79955


Li M, Zhang Y, Zhang Z, Zhang Y, Zhou L, Chen K



In China, the rapid rate of population aging and changes in the prevalence of disability among elderly people could have significant effects on the demand for long-term care. This study aims to describe the urban-rural differences in use and cost of long-term care of the disabled elderly and to explore potential influencing factors.


This study uses data from a cross-sectional survey and a qualitative investigation conducted in Zhejiang province in 2012. The participants were 826 individuals over 60 years of age, who had been bedridden or suffered from dementia for more than 6 months. A generalized linear model and two-part regression model were applied to estimate costs, with adjustment of covariates.


Pensions provide the main source of income for urban elderly, while the principal income source for rural elderly is their family. Urban residents spend more on all services than do rural residents. Those who are married spend less on daily supplies and formal care than the unmarried do. Age, incapacitation time, comorbidity number, level of income, and bedridden status influence spending on medical care (β=-0.0316, -0.0206, 0.1882, 0.3444, and -0.4281, respectively), but the cost does not increase as the elderly grow older. Urban residents, the married, and those with a higher income level tend to spend more on medical equipment. Urban residence and living status are the two significant factors that affect spending on personal hygiene products.


The use of long-term care services varies by living area. Long-term care of the disabled elderly imposes a substantial burden on families. Our study revealed that informal care involves huge opportunity costs to the caregivers. Chinese policy makers need to promote community care and long-term care insurance to relieve the burden of families of disabled elderly, and particular attention should be given to the rural elderly.