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Intellectuals living longer on average, survey shows
By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-26 05:34

A recent investigation shows that the average life expectancy of Chinese intellectuals is eight years longer than other groups with men averaging 77.8 years and woman 81.7 years.

According to the fourth and fifth national census, the Chinese men's average life expectancy is 69.6 years and women's, 73.3 years.

These results overturn many people's impression about intellectuals' health, which is that these highly educated people live shorter than average people because of heavy pressure and an excessive workload.

Especially this year, some shocking stories have stirred public compassion over the loss of some learned men.

He Yong, mathematics professor at Zhejiang University, died of liver cancer in August. Xiao Liangzhong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, passed away in his sleep in January. And Jiao Lianwei, a teacher at Tsinghua University, also died in January. All were aged 36.

"Intensive domestic reports about young intellectuals' deaths should be blamed for the public misunderstanding," said Zhai Zhenwu, director of the Sociology and Demography Institute at Renmin University of China, who was also in charge of the investigation, which attracted many experts in demography, statistics, public health and sociology.

"There are also many laid-off workers, farmers or migrant workers, passing away at young ages, but the media do not pay much attention," he said.

Experts say life expectancy, as a comprehensive index of human health, is influenced by many factors, such as medical treatment conditions, living environment, income and knowledge about health and education.

"Obviously these factors in intellectuals are much better than in common people," Zhai said.

"Intellectuals do have more pressure and workload. During the investigation, we found that intellectuals bear 30 per cent more pressure than the common people, and intellectuals work two hours longer every day."

But those highly educated people also enjoy better living conditions in China. In Beijing, about 85 per cent of them take physical examination every year, which is mostly paid by their units. But only about half of the city's citizens overall enjoy such treatment.

The investigation covered more than 400 dead intellectuals at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University and Peking University and almost all living intellectuals between the ages of 45 and 60, according to Zhai.

"The result is reliable," he said. "We want to correct the public misunderstanding, since some years ago, another report said that Chinese intellectuals could live for only 58 years."

Earlier, Minister of Health Gao Qiang said last Sunday at the Shanghai Healthy City International Forum that the health condition of the people in China has already reached the advanced standards among the developing countries.

He said the Chinese Government attaches great importance to the progress of the country's health undertakings and speeding up is endeavour for people's life security and health building.

The average national life expectancy of the people in China has been raised from age 35 in the 1950s to age 71.4, the minister said.

(China Daily 11/26/2005 page2)

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