Healthcare utilization and its association with socioeconomic status in China: Evidence from the 2011–2018 China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study

Xi Li, Itismita Mohanty, Peipei Chai, Theo Niyonsenga

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    Abstract

    Introduction Healthcare utilization often favors the higher-socioeconomic status (SES) and having chronic diseases may exacerbate this inequality. This study aims to examine the trends in health service use over time, the effect of SES on healthcare utilization, and the role of chronic diseases in this association. Methods Data used in this study were from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2018, which is the first nationally representative survey of the middle-aged and older. The sample included people aged 45 years and older who responded to all the waves. A total of 10,922 adults were included in this study. Healthcare utilization was categorized into outpatient and inpatient service use and SES was measured by per-capita household expenditure. A multilevel zero-inflated negative binomial regression model was performed to analyze outpatient and inpatient service use, separately. Results The rates of outpatient service use in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2018 were 19.11%, 21.45%, 20.12%, and 16.32%, respectively, while the rates of inpatient service use were 8.40%, 13.04%, 14.17%, and 18.79%, respectively. Compared to individuals in the lowest quintile of per-capita household expenditure, those in higher quintiles had higher odds of outpatient service use (Q2: odds ratio = 1.233, p < 0.0001; Q3: 1.416, p < 0.0001; Q4: 1.408, p < 0.0001; or Q5: 1.439, p < 0.0001) and higher rates of inpatient service use (Q2: incidence rate ratio = 1.273, p < 0.0001; Q3: 1.773, p < 0.0001; Q4: 2.071, p < 0.0001; or Q5: 1.992, p < 0.0001). Additionally, having morbidity generally increased healthcare utilization, but did not play a significant role in moderating the relationship between SES and healthcare utilization. Conclusions Healthcare utilization rates were overall low in China, but relatively high for people in higher quintiles of per-capita household expenditure or those with morbidity, compared to their counterparts. Policy actions are required to provide more health education to the public, to further optimize health insurance schemes targeting outpatient services, especially for the low-SES, and to establish new health delivery models for NCD management in the primary health care setting.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0297025
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume19
    Issue number3 March
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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