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International Journal for Equity in Health






BACKGROUND: Partial- or full-lockdowns, among other interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic, may disproportionally affect people (their behaviors and health outcomes) with lower socioeconomic status (SES). This study examines income-related health inequalities and their main contributors in China during the pandemic.

METHODS: The 2020 China COVID-19 Survey is an anonymous 74-item survey administered via social media in China. A national sample of 10,545 adults in all 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions in mainland China provided comprehensive data on sociodemographic characteristics, awareness and attitudes towards COVID-19, lifestyle factors, and health outcomes during the lockdown. Of them, 8448 subjects provided data for this analysis. Concentration Index (CI) and Corrected CI (CCI) were used to measure income-related inequalities in mental health and self-reported health (SRH), respectively. Wagstaff-type decomposition analysis was used to identify contributors to health inequalities.

RESULTS: Most participants reported their health status as "very good" (39.0%) or "excellent" (42.3%). CCI of SRH and mental health were - 0.09 (p < 0.01) and 0.04 (p < 0.01), respectively, indicating pro-poor inequality in ill SRH and pro-rich inequality in ill mental health. Income was the leading contributor to inequalities in SRH and mental health, accounting for 62.7% (p < 0.01) and 39.0% (p < 0.05) of income-related inequalities, respectively. The COVID-19 related variables, including self-reported family-member COVID-19 infection, job loss, experiences of food and medication shortage, engagement in physical activity, and five different-level pandemic regions of residence, explained substantial inequalities in ill SRH and ill mental health, accounting for 29.7% (p < 0.01) and 20.6% (p < 0.01), respectively. Self-reported family member COVID-19 infection, experiencing food and medication shortage, and engagement in physical activity explain 9.4% (p < 0.01), 2.6% (the summed contributions of experiencing food shortage (0.9%) and medication shortage (1.7%), p < 0.01), and 17.6% (p < 0.01) inequality in SRH, respectively (8.9% (p < 0.01), 24.1% (p < 0.01), and 15.1% (p < 0.01) for mental health).

CONCLUSIONS: Per capita household income last year, experiences of food and medication shortage, self-reported family member COVID-19 infection, and physical activity are important contributors to health inequalities, especially mental health in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. Intervention programs should be implemented to support vulnerable groups.


© The Authors 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

Original Publication Citation

Nie, P., Ding, L., Chen, Z., Liu, S., Zhang, Q., Shi, Z., Wang, L., Xue, H., Liu, G. G., & Wang, Y. (2021). Income-related health inequality among Chinese adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence based on an online survey. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20, 1-13, Article 106.