Impact of illness and medical expenditure on household consumptions: a survey in western China

Kuangnan Fang, Yefei Jiang, Benchang Shia, Shuangge Ma
PloS One 2012, 7 (12): e52928

BACKGROUND: The main goal of this study is to examine the associations between illness conditions and out-of-pocket medical expenditure with other types of household consumptions. In November and December of 2011, a survey was conducted in three cities in western China, namely Lan Zhou, Gui Lin and Xi An, and their surrounding rural areas.

RESULTS: Information on demographics, income and consumption was collected on 2,899 households. Data analysis suggested that the presence of household members with chronic diseases was not associated with characteristics of households or household heads. The presence of inpatient treatments was significantly associated with the age of household head (p-value 0.03). The level of per capita medical expense was significantly associated with household size, presence of members younger than 18, older than 65, basic health insurance coverage, per capita income, and household head occupation. Adjusting for confounding effects, the presence of chronic diseases was negatively associated with the amount of basic consumption (p-value 0.02) and the percentage of basic consumption (p-value 0.01), but positively associated with the percentage of insurance expense (p-value 0.02). Medical expenditure was positively associated with all other types of consumptions, including basic, education, saving and investment, entertainment, insurance, durable goods, and alcohol/tobacco. It was negatively associated with the percentage of basic consumption, saving and investment, and insurance.

CONCLUSIONS: Early studies conducted in other Asian countries and rural China found negative associations between illness conditions and medical expenditure with other types of consumptions. This study was conducted in three major cities and surrounding areas in western China, which had not been well investigated in published literature. The observed consumption patterns were different from those in early studies, and the negative associations were not observed. This study may complement the existing rural studies and provide useful information on western Chinese cities.

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