How healthy are the lifestyles of Chinese elders?

Seniors between 50 and 80 in China tend to drink the most and smoke more often than other developing economies, but are the most likely to include healthy foods in their diets, according to a huge study of global aging populations.

Comparing factors such as tobacco, alcohol use, exercise and diet, they examined health risks for more than 30,000 elders from China, Ghana, India, Russia and South Africa.

Examining data from 13,000 elderly Chinese, they were found to be the most likely to drink heavily with 15% of men between 50-59 years old recording heavy alcohol consumption compared with Russia, the second highest, at 3% for the age group.

The divide gets larger tracking drinking among the 70-79 year old participants, with 8.5% of Chinese men drinking heavily, compared to second-place Ghana at 1.7%.  Only 0.7% of Russians in that age group drank, shrinking to 0% for the rest of the countries.

China had the second biggest number of smokers with 58% of men in their 50s smoking.  India had the highest number, with 63%, almost six times more than Ghana, where only 11% of men between 50-59 years old use tobacco.

Examining excercise, China was mid-table with  less than 25% of men and women aged between 50-59 not getting enough physical activity.  Mexico had the most active, with only 11.1% not reporting enough physical activity.
Unsurprisingly, China had the healthiest eaters among the other countries, with only 32% of 50-59-year-olds not eating enough fruits and vegetables. India had the most unhealthy eaters with 87% of elders not getting their greens.

As a result, Chinese men had the lowest levels of central obesity for that age range, at 41%.

The study was one of the first of its kind comparing aged populations in lower- and middle- income economies.   Data was collected between 2007 and 2010 by various organizations from each country and global organizations such as the  World Health Organization.

The goal was to provide a basic foundation for further research, the report, Common risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases among older adults in China, Ghana, Mexico, India, Russia and South Africa: the studyon global AGEing and adult health (SAGE) wave 1, said.

“The baseline information on the magnitude of the problem of risk factors provided by this study can help countries and health policymakers to set up interventions addressing the global non communicable disease epidemic,” it said.

The study was published online in January, 2015.