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Open Access Research article

Illness, medical expenditure and household consumption: observations from Taiwan

Kuangnan Fang1, Chi Ma2, Yefei Jiang1, Linglong Ye1, Benchang Shia13 and Shuangge Ma134*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Statistics, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China

2 Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology, Beijing, China

3 Department of Statistics and Information Science, FuJen Catholic University, New Taipei, Taiwan

4 School of Public Health, Yale University, 60 College ST, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:743  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-743

Published: 12 August 2013



Illness conditions lead to medical expenditure. Even with various types of medical insurance, there can still be considerable out-of-pocket costs. Medical expenditure can affect other categories of household consumptions. The goal of this study is to provide an updated empirical description of the distributions of illness conditions and medical expenditure and their associations with other categories of household consumptions.


A phone-call survey was conducted in June and July of 2012. The study was approved by ethics review committees at Xiamen University and FuJen Catholic University. Data was collected using a Computer-Assisted Telephone Survey System (CATSS). “Household” was the unit for data collection and analysis. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted, examining the distributions of illness conditions and the associations of illness and medical expenditure with other household consumptions.


The presence of chronic disease and inpatient treatment was not significantly associated with household characteristics. The level of per capita medical expenditure was significantly associated with household size, income, and household head occupation. The presence of chronic disease was significantly associated with levels of education, insurance and durable goods consumption. After adjusting for confounders, the associations with education and durable goods consumption remained significant. The presence of inpatient treatment was not associated with consumption levels. In the univariate analysis, medical expenditure was significantly associated with all other consumption categories. After adjusting for confounding effects, the associations between medical expenditure and the actual amount of entertainment expenses and percentages of basic consumption, savings, and insurance (as of total consumption) remained significant.


This study provided an updated description of the distributions of illness conditions and medical expenditure in Taiwan. The findings were mostly positive in that illness and medical expenditure were not observed to be significantly associated with other consumption categories. This observation differed from those made in some other Asian countries and could be explained by the higher economic status and universal basic health insurance coverage of Taiwan.

Illness; Medical expenditure; Household consumption; Taiwan