Flows of social support and health status among older persons in China

Xian Liu*, Jersey Liang, Shengzu Gu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

70 Scopus citations


As a consequence of the political, social, and economic developments in contemporary China, there have been considerable changes in the patterns of flows of social support between Chinese older people and their significant others. There is evidence that Chinese elders are now under strong pressure to provide more social support, instrumental support in particular, to their children and other relatives while they receive less. Such a change in the direction of flows of social support has been reported to worsen the elders' health. This paper describes the general pattern of social support both to and from the Chinese elders, using data of a probability sample survey conducted in Wuhan, China in 1991. The association between social support, both receiving and providing, and old-age health status is also analysed within a multivariate framework. The results of two probit models suggest that emotional support received plays a crucial role in affecting an elder's health status, while instrumental support received does not have explicit impacts. In addition, there is no empirical evidence that increased instrumental support from elders has worsened their health status as reported.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1184
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 10 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • health status
  • older people
  • social support


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