A cohort study of the effects of older adult care dependence upon household economic functioning, in Peru, Mexico and China

Maëlenn M. Guerchet, Mariella Guerra, Yueqin Huang, Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Ana Luisa Sosa, Richard Uwakwe, Isaac Acosta, Peter Ezeah, Sara Gallardo, Zhaorui Liu, Rosie Mayston, Veronica Montes de Oca, Hong Wang, Martin J. Prince*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: While links between disability and poverty are well established, there have been few longitudinal studies to clarify direction of causality, particularly among older adults in low and middle income countries. We aimed to study the effect of care dependence among older adult residents on the economic functioning of their households, in catchment area survey sites in Peru, Mexico and China. 

Methods: Households were classified from the evolution of the needs for care of older residents, over two previous community surveys, as ‘incident care’, ‘chronic care’ or ‘no care’, and followed up three years later to ascertain economic outcomes (household income, consumption, economic strain, satisfaction with economic circumstances, healthcare expenditure and residents giving up work or education to care). 

Results: Household income did not differ between household groups. However, income from paid work (Pooled Count Ratio pCR 0.88, 95% CI 0.78–1.00) and government transfers (pCR 0.80, 95% CI 0.69–0.93) were lower in care households. Consumption was 12% lower in chronic care households (pCR 0.88, 95% CI 0.77–0.99). Household healthcare expenditure was higher (pCR 1.55, 95% CI 1.26–1.90), and catastrophic healthcare spending more common (pRR 1.64, 95% CI 1.64–2.22) in care households.

Conclusions: While endogeneity cannot be confidently excluded as an explanation for the findings, this study indicates that older people’s needs for care have a discernable impact on household economics, controlling for baseline indicators of long-term economic status. Although living, typically, in multigenerational family units, older people have not featured prominently in global health and development agendas. Population ageing will rapidly increase the number of households where older people live, and their societal significance. Building sustainable long-term care systems for the future will require some combination of improved income security in old age; incentivisation of informal care through compensation for direct and opportunity costs; and development of community care services to support, and, where necessary, supplement or substitute the central role of informal caregivers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195567
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

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