Abstract – Associations between human rights environments and healthy longevity: The case of older persons in China

Bethany L. Brown, Li Qiu, and Danan Gu

Health and Human rights 14/2

Published December 2012


Individual health can deteriorate through neglect or violation of human rights or can improve through favorable health policies and programs on human rights. Yet quantitative associations between human rights and health are insufficiently studied. Based on a nationwide dataset of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) with more than 18,800 adults aged 65 and older in mainland China interviewed in 2002 and 2005 and their follow-ups three years later, we examine how an individual’s longevity and health are associated with some domains of human rights. We use three individual-level variables in early life stages (whether a respondent went to bed hungry, accessed adequate medical services, and years of schooling), three individual-level variables at present (whether a respondent has adequate housing; whether a respondent has adequate economic resources to support his/her daily subsistence, and whether a respondent gets adequate medical services when in need), and one community-level variable (air quality) as proxies to measure several fundamental domains of human rights in terms of access to adequate food/nutrition, housing/shelter, education, social security, health care, and clean-air environments. An indicator of healthy survival is introduced to measure survivors at sequent follow-ups with a good health condition. Our results demonstrate that better conditions of proxy measures of human rights at different life stages, especially at present, are associated with a higher likelihood of healthy survival after taking various confounding variables into consideration, suggesting the possibility of a significant linkage between good environments in human rights and healthy longevity. These findings may have important implications for promoting better environments in human rights, especially in the context of population aging.