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China's city dwellers in poor health
Updated: 2004-09-20 14:35

Up to 75 percent of urban Chinese suffer from bad health, with a new survey showing the problem is killing more people than infectious diseases, particularly among the skilled and educated.

The worrying trend of early death in China has left authorities searching for ways to deal with the problem.

The survey, conducted in 16 Chinese cities with populations bigger than 1 million, found 75.31 percent of people in Beijing are in poor health, 73.49 percent in Shanghai as well as 73.41 percent of Cantonese people, concentrated in southern Guangdong Province.

Poor health was defined as a person being sick, with reduced energy and fitness, but not diagnosed with a specific disease.

The problem is particularly bad among senior- and middle-level managers, clerks and other white-collar workers with good educations, according to the Website of the Red Cross Society of China.

"Bad health, found mostly among people with good educations, will have direct negative effects on China's long-term development and progress if it is not dealt with properly," the Website warned.

An authoritative survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates the average lifespan of an educated person is 58, 10 years lower than the national average.

And the early death phenomenon is accelerating, especially among 25 to 59 year olds, where the death rate for females is as high as 10.4 percent, while for males it is as high as 16.5 percent.

A report released by the China Sub Health Academic Seminar said China is experiencing a transitional period where chronic illness has taken the place of infectious disease as the main killer.

"The economic loss caused by disease is as high as 400 billion yuan (US$169.5 billion), or more than 14 percent of China's annual gross domestic product," said the report.

"Bad working habits, poor disease prevention, inadequate governmental funding and lack of health education are the main reasons," said Yang Xiaoduo, a healthcare expert who warned China must move quickly to solve the health problem.

"If it is not effectively controlled through education, both the state and society will suffer."

Experts believe Chinese medicine can play an active role in fighting bad health.

"Traditional Chinese medicine will cause no negative consequences if carried out properly," said Huang Jianjun, a professor from the Beijing Chinese Medicine College.

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