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Open Access Research article

When does poor subjective financial position hurt the elderly? Testing the interaction with educational attainment using a national representative longitudinal survey

Christy Pu1, Nicole Huang1, Gao-Jun Tang12 and Yiing-Jenq Chou3*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Hospital and Health Care Administration, School of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan

2 National Yang-Ming University Hospital, Yi-Lan, Taiwan

3 Department of Public Health, School of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:166  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-166

Published: 17 March 2011



Several studies have demonstrated that perceived financial status has a significant impact on health status among the elderly. However, little is known about whether such a subjective perception interacts with objective socioeconomic status (SES) measures such as education that affect the individual's health.


This research used data from the Survey of Health and Living Status of the Middle Age and Elderly in Taiwan (SHLS) conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion, Department of Health in Taiwan. Waves 1996, 1999 and 2003 were used. The sample consisted of 2,387 elderly persons. The interactive effects of self-rated satisfaction with financial position and educational attainment were estimated. Self-rated health (SRH), depressive symptom (measured by CES-D) and mortality were used to measure health outcomes.


Significant interaction effect was found for depressive symptoms. Among those who were dissatisfied with their financial position, those who were illiterate had an odds ratio (OR) of 8.3 (95% CI 4.9 to 14.0) for having depressive symptoms compared with those who were very satisfied with their financial position. The corresponding OR for those with college or above was only 2.7 (95% CI 1.0 to 7.3). No significant interaction effect was found for SRH and mortality.


Although poor financial satisfaction was found to be related to poorer health, the strongest association for this effect was observed among those with low educational attainment, and this is especially true for depressive symptoms. Subjective financial status among the elderly should be explored in conjunction with traditional measures of SES.

aged; education; health; depressive symptoms; mortality