Open Access Open Badges Research article

Status and determinants of health behavior knowledge among the elderly in China: a community-based cross-sectional study

Zhiqin Yin1*, Guiling Geng2, Xuefen Lan1, Liming Zhang3, Surong Wang2, Yuantong Zang1 and Meidi Peng2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Nursing, School of Nursing, Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou 325035, China

2 Department of Nursing, School of Nursing, Nantong University, Nantong 226019, China

3 Wenzhou WuMa Community Health Service Center, Wenzhou 325000, China

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:710  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-710

Published: 2 August 2013



Limited studies are available on health behavior knowledge among the elderly and the interaction between the elderly and their children living with them. Using a survey of the elderly in the community and their children living with them, we explored the characteristics that determine health behavior knowledge. We also identified the influencing factors affecting such knowledge. The relationship between the health behavior knowledge of the elderly and that of their children was also investigated.


A total of 1207 elderly people were selected by multistage probability sampling (number of children of the elderly = 201). We used a self-designed behavior knowledge questionnaire (38 questions) to survey the participants. After the 38 questions were answered, the total score was determined. The group with adequate health behavior knowledge (score ≥ 24) and that with inadequate knowledge (score < 24) were distinguished by logistic regression to explain the influencing factors affecting health knowledge.


On the basis of the responses to 38 questions in the survey, approximately 46.7% of elderly people were identified as having a good knowledge of health. Knowledge of the proper amount of certain foods and liquids as well as that of psychological disorder among the elderly recorded a low percentage at < 60%. Factors related to health behavior knowledge among the elderly were as follows educational attainment, past occupation, and location of residence. Participants who finished high school or higher had 6, 4, and 3 times greater odds of possessing adequate health knowledge than those who attained below primary school, primary school, and junior high school levels, respectively. Those with experience as administrative and technical personnel, workers, migrant workers, and farmers had 2.5, 2.3, 3.9, and 2.1 times greater odds of possessing adequate health knowledge, respectively, than those who were unemployed. Respondents living in the city had 3.7 times greater odds of possessing adequate health knowledge than those living in the countryside. In the stem family, the health knowledge of the elderly was significantly lower than that of their children (P < 0.001). However, the influence of their children’s knowledge upper their elder’s was relatively weak.


The need to improve health behavior knowledge among the Chinese elderly remains high. Medical personnel in the community should provide health education related to proper diet and alcohol intake, as well as psychological health, particularly for those elderly who only reached primary school and below, used to be unemployed, and are living in rural areas. Children of stem families should be guided to enhance their health education and contribute to the health knowledge of their elderly parents.

Community; The elderly; Health behavior; Knowledge; Children