Association between childhood conditions and arthritis among middle-aged and older adults in China: The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study

Nan Lu, Bei Wu, Nan Jiang, Tingyue Dong

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This study examined the association between childhood conditions and arthritis among middle-aged and older adults in China. The data were derived from the 2015 wave and the life-history module of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with respondents age 45 and over across China. Multiple imputation was used to handle the missing data, generating a final analytic sample of 19,800. Doctor-diagnosed arthritis was the main outcome variable. Random-effects logistic regression models were used to test the proposed models. Approximately 8 per cent of the respondents had better family financial status in childhood than their neighbours. Close to 8 per cent had been hospitalised or encountered similar conditions (e.g. confined to bed or home) for at least one month in childhood. Around one-third reported better subjective health in childhood than their peers. The majority of the respondents (80%) reported that they had stable health resources, and that their mothers were illiterate during their childhood. Childhood family financial status, subjective health, mother's education, access to health care and medical catastrophic events were found to be significant factors associated with arthritis in later life, after controlling for adulthood and older-age conditions (family financial status: odds ratio (OR) = 0.885, 95 per cent confidence interval (95% CI) = 0.848-0.924; subjective health: OR = 0.924, 95% CI = 0.889-0.960; mother's education: OR = 0.863, 95% CI = 0.750-0.992; access to health care: OR = 0.729, 95% CI = 0.552-0.964; medical catastrophic events: OR = 1.266, 95% CI = 1.108-1.446). The study results highlight an important role that childhood conditions play in affecting the onset of arthritis in late life in China. Health-care providers may consider childhood conditions as a valuable screening criterion to identify risk populations, which could be used to guide health promotion and prevention programmes, and promote healthy ageing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAgeing and Society
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • arthritis
  • childhood conditions
  • China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS)
  • life course

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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