Does the Economic Status of Adult Children Influence Self-Rated Health Among Older Adults in China?

Wencheng Zhang, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: We aim to investigate the association between children's economic status and parents' self-rated health and examine the potential mediating mechanisms for this relationship. METHODS: Utilizing nationally representative data in China in 2014, this study predicted parent's self-rated health from children's economic status using inverse probability of treatment weighting to account for selection and endogeneity bias. We further examined depressive symptoms, kin and nonkin social support networks, emotional closeness to children, and economic support from children, as potential mediators of this relationship. RESULTS: The study reveals that parents whose children had greater economic success tended to have better self-rated health. For both rural and urban older adults, depressive symptoms served as the most influential mediator. However, only among rural older adults did the size of their support networks mediate the relationship between children's economic status and perceived health. DISCUSSION: The results from this study suggest that children's economic success contributes to better self-rated health among older adults. In part, this relationship was explained by better emotional well-being and greater availability of support resources among parents in rural areas with successful children. This quasi-causal analysis demonstrates that adult children remain important for the well-being of their older parents in China, but also suggests that health inequalities in later life are exacerbated by the chance of having economically successful offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1604-1616
Number of pages13
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 28 2023


  • Depression
  • Economic status
  • Intergenerational relations
  • Self-rated health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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