Wellbeing of the Elderly in East Asia: China, Korea, and Japan

Author Name ICHIMURA Hidehiko (Faculty Fellow, RIETI) / Xiaoyan LEI (Peking University) / Chulhee LEE (Seoul National University) / Jinkook LEE (University of Southern California/RAND Corporation) / Albert PARK (Hong Kong University of Science & Technology) / SAWADA Yasuyuki (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. March 2017 17-E-029
Research Project Toward a Comprehensive Resolution of the Social Security Problem: A new economics of aging
Download / Links


East Asia is undergoing a rapid demographic transition and "super" aging. As a result of steadily decreasing fertility and increasing life expectancy, the elderly proportion of the population and the old-age dependency ratio are rising across all countries in East Asia, particularly China, Republic of Korea, and Japan. In this paper, we empirically investigate the wellbeing of the elderly in these three countries, using comparable micro-level data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), the Korean Longitudinal Study on Aging (KLoSA), and the Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement (JSTAR). Specifically, we examine the depressive symptom scale as a measure of wellbeing and estimate the impact of four broad categories: demographic, economic, family-social, and health. The decomposition and simulation analysis reveals that although much of the difference in mean depression rates among countries can be explained in differences in the characteristics of the elderly in the three countries, there remain significant differences across countries that cannot be explained. In particular, even after accounting for a multitude of factors, the elderly in Korea are more likely to be depressed than in China or Japan.