Physical multimorbidity, health service use, and catastrophic health expenditure by socioeconomic groups in China: an analysis of population-based panel data.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Multimorbidity, the presence of two or more mental or physical chronic non-communicable diseases, is a major challenge for the health system in China, which faces unprecedented ageing of its population. Here we examined the distribution of physical multimorbidity in relation to socioeconomic status; the association between physical multimorbidity, health-care service use, and catastrophic health expenditures; and whether these associations varied by socioeconomic group and social health insurance schemes. METHODS: In this population-based, panel data analysis, we used data from three waves of the nationally representative China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) for 2011, 2013, and 2015. We included participants aged 50 years and older in 2015, who had complete follow-up for the three waves. We used 11 physical non-communicable diseases to measure physical multimorbidity and annual per-capita household consumption spending as a proxy for socioeconomic status. FINDINGS: Of 17 708 participants in CHARLS, 11 817 were eligible for inclusion in our analysis. The median age of participants was 62 years (IQR 56-69) in 2015, and 5766 (48·8%) participants were male. 7320 (61·9%) eligible participants had physical multimorbidity in China in 2015. The prevalence of physical multimorbidity was increased with older age (odds ratio 2·93, 95% CI 2·71-3·15), among women (2·70, 2·04-3·57), within a higher socioeconomic group (for quartile 4 [highest group] 1·50, 1·24-1·82), and higher educational level (5·17, 3·02-8·83); however, physical multimorbidity was more common in poorer regions than in the more affluent regions. An additional chronic non-communicable disease was associated with an increase in the number of outpatient visits (incidence rate ratio 1·29, 95% CI 1·27-1·31), and number of days spent in hospital as an inpatient (1·38, 1·35-1·41). We saw similar effects in health service use of an additional chronic non-communicable disease in different socioeconomic groups and among those covered by different social health insurance programmes. Overall, physical multimorbidity was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of catastrophic health expenditure (for the overall population: odds ratio 1·29, 95% CI 1·26-1·32, adjusted for sociodemographic variables). The effect of physical multimorbidity on catastrophic health expenditures persisted even among the higher socioeconomic groups and across all health insurance programmes. INTERPRETATION: Concerted efforts are needed to reduce health inequalities that are due to physical multimorbidity, and its adverse economic effect in population groups in China. Social health insurance reforms must place emphasis on reducing out-of-pocket spending for patients with multimorbidity to provide greater financial risk protection. FUNDING: None.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zhao, Y; Atun, R; Oldenburg, B; McPake, B; Tang, S; Mercer, SW; Cowling, TE; Sum, G; Qin, VM; Lee, JT

Published Date

  • June 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 6

Start / End Page

  • e840 - e849

PubMed ID

  • 32446349

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7241981

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2214-109X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30127-3


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England