Open Access Research article

Subhealth: definition, criteria for diagnosis and potential prevalence in the central region of China

Guolin Li13*, Fuxia Xie1, Siyu Yan1, Xiaofei Hu1, Bo Jin4, Jun Wang1, Jinfeng Wu1, Dazhong Yin12* and Qingji Xie3

Author Affiliations

1 The Key Laboratory of Protein Chemistry and Developmental Biology of Ministry of Education, College of Life Sciences, Hunan Normal University, Changsha, Hunan 410081, P. R. China

2 Qingyuan City People’s Hospital of Jinan University, Qingyuan, Guangdong 511518, P. R. China

3 The Key Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Traditional Chinese Medicine Research of Ministry of Education, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Hunan Normal University, Changsha, Hunan 410081, P. R. China

4 The Fourth Hospital of Changsha, Affiliated Hospital of Hunan Normal University, Changsha, Hunan 410081, P.R. China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:446  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-446

Published: 4 May 2013



A full evaluation of health conditions is necessary for the effective implementation of public health interventions. However, terms to address the intermediate state between health and disease are lacking, leading the public to overlook this state and thus increasing the risks of developing disease.


A cross-sectional health survey of 1,473 randomly recruited Chinese Han adults of both sexes living in the central region of China. The criteria for diagnosis of subhealth was defined as the presence of ≥ 1 of the following abnormalities: body mass index ≥ 25 kg/m2 or waist circumference ≥ 102 cm in men and 88 cm in women; systolic pressure 120–139 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure 80–89 mmHg; serum triglyceride level ≥ 150 mg/dL and/or total cholesterol level ≥ 200 mg/dL and/or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level < 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women; serum glucose level 110–125 mg/dL; estimated glomerular filtration rate 60–89 ml/min/1.73 m2; levels of liver enzymes in liver function tests between 41–59 U/L, or with fatty liver disease but < 33% of affected hepatocytes; levels of oxidative stress biomarkers beyond the reference range of 95%; or problems with both sleep quality and psychological state.


The prevalences of subhealth and disease in the central region of China were 36.6% and 43.1%, respectively. The prevalence of disease increased from 26.3% in participants aged 20–39 years, to 47.6% and 78.9% for participants aged 40–59 years and those aged 60 years or older, respectively. Compared with participants aged 20–39, the prevalences of health and subhealth in participants aged 60 years or older decreased by 86.7% and 60.3%, respectively. The prevalence of subhealth was increased in association with increases in lifestyle risk scores, while the prevalences of both health and disease were reduced.


The prevalences of subhealth and disease are high in central China. Subhealth is associated with high lifestyle risk scores. Both the health care sector and the public should pay more attention to subhealth. Lifestyle modifications and/or psychological interventions are needed to ameliorate these conditions.

Subhealth; Health; Disease; Oxidative stress; Thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS)