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Life Satisfaction of Older Chinese: The Role of Health and Health Insurance

Elderly couple enjoying life

Sisi Yang and Katja Hanewald

Abstract: The Chinese government has launched a series of health reforms to establish universal health insurance coverage, particularly for vulnerable groups, including older adults. However, the current public health insurance system is highly fragmented, consisting of different programs with different levels of premiums and benefits. We analyse whether the universal health insurance system increases the life satisfaction of middle-aged and older Chinese people and to what extent the type of health insurance affects the life satisfaction of this group. Our study is based on data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative longitudinal survey of Chinese aged 45 and above, in 2011, 2013, and 2015. We find that the life satisfaction of middle-aged and older adults does not depend on having any health insurance coverage but varies with the type of health insurance coverage, controlling for potential confounding variables such as health status, occupation, hukou status, education, and other demographic variables. Individuals covered by the most generous program, the Government Medical Insurance, reported a higher life satisfaction. In comparison, individuals covered by the Urban Employee Medical Insurance, the Urban Resident Medical Insurance, and the New Rural Cooperative Scheme reported a lower life satisfaction by 0.155, 0.106, and 0.112 standard deviations, respectively. Our results suggest that establishing a more equitable health insurance system should be the next step in health reforms in China.

Keywords: Life satisfaction, Health insurance, Older adults, Health, China

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