Abstract: Wealth and Health in Predicting Elders' Social Capabilities in China: Mediating Role of Social Resources (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

534P Wealth and Health in Predicting Elders' Social Capabilities in China: Mediating Role of Social Resources

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Yalu Zhang, Doctoral Student, Columbia University, New York, NY
Qin Gao, Ph.D., Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Paul Anand, PhD, Professor, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Background and Purpose: With the increasing number of older adults in the world, greater attention has been paid to health studies of this population from biological, psychological, and social dimensions in recent decades. Despite an established positive link between human capital and social capabilities, the effect mechanisms are understudied. This study aims to provide new evidence on the effects of wealth and health on social capabilities of older adults in China and the possible mediating role of social resources in this relationship. Amartya Sen and other scholars’ social capabilities approach provides a nuanced angle for studying how health conditions could be related to individuals’ capacities for accessing and utilizing resources. As China transitions into a major power in the world and the aging of its population continues accelerating, it is important to understand this mechanism empirically in both urban and rural China so that more effective interventions and services regarding social support and social capabilities can be provided.

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.