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Study says 30% of Chinese seniors malnourished

By China Daily | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-13 16:45

Poor nutrition is a major issue among China's elderly population, according to Peking University's new China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study.

The findings were presented at the recent China Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Academic Conference in Shanghai.

Research shows up to 30 percent of Chinese age 60 or older are malnourished, which has deteriorated their health and increased outpatient visits at hospitals, according to the study.

It estimated that poor nutrition results in 4.45 billion yuan ($667 million) in outpatient costs in China every year, representing a heavy financial burden for seniors and the national healthcare system.

The 2015 UN World Population Aging report stated that nearly 25 percent of the global population of over-60s live in China, and the World Health Organization has predicted this will reach 30 percent by 2050.

The Peking University study, supported by healthcare company Abbott, aimed to offer a systematic and quantified analysis of the nutrition status of seniors in urban and rural China.

Researchers analyzed the prevalence and predictors of malnutrition among more than 11,000 Chinese aged 60 or over, and found about 12.7 percent — 20 million — were undernourished. The figure increased to 30 percent when based on grip strength.

If the situation is not addressed, China will have 47 million malnourished seniors by 2050, and another 180 million seniors with at least one indicator of malnutrition, the study said.

Zhang Yuhui, a lead researcher and a professor at the China National Health Development Research Center, said malnutrition has a significant effect on the utilization and cost of healthcare services for seniors.

Statistical analysis show substandard health levels, a low level of medical security and living in rural areas are the main influencing factors of malnutrition in seniors.

Zhang said China should pay more attention to the nutritional status and policy guarantees for disadvantaged seniors, especially those living in rural areas, to help improve their health.

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