Methods: This paper uses the national representative 2011 WHO Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health China data. Our analytical sample includes 13,408 participants aged 50 and older. Given the very different social and policy structures in urban and rural China, all analyses are conducted separately for the two areas. The dependent variables of social capabilities include four dimensions: difficulties in dealing with conflicts and maintaining relationship with others, feeling free to express oneself, sense of safety in neighborhood, and self-perceived health status. The key independent variables are wealth and health, measured respectively by the natural logarithm of household per capita annual income and a composite score calculated from 22 dimensions of physical functioning. A rich array of individual and household sociodemographic characteristics are controlled for in all analyses.
The two mediators of social resources include community participation and sense of trust with colleagues, neighbors, and strangers. The Sobel-Goodman mediation test helps examine the possible relationship mechanisms among variables. The mediation analysis not only provides evidence on whether wealth and health have both direct and indirect effects on social capabilities among older adults in China, but also what proportion of the total effects are accounted for by the mediating role of social resources.
Results: Our preliminary results show that older adults with higher educational attainment, higher household income, better physical and mental functioning, and living in urban areas had greater social capital and better health status. Specifically, those with more frequent community participation, a higher sense of safety and trust, and better physical functioning had higher scores of social capabilities. Our mediation analysis results show that the intensity of social resources accounts for a substantial proportion of the effects of wealth and health on social capabilities, but wealth and health still have strong, positive direct effects of their own.
Conclusions and Implications: Results of this study provide important implications for social policy interventions and service provisions for the rapidly growing older population in China as well as in other countries. More social intervention programs should be designed to enhance older adults’ human capital and social resources.