Professor Zeng Yi and Co-Writers’ Paper Issued on The Lancet

MAR . 31 2017
Peking University, Mar 27, 2017: The paper “Survival, disability in activities of daily living, physical and cognitive functioning among the oldest-old in China: a cohort study” co-written by lead author Zeng Yi, professor of National School of Development at Peking University, and four other co-writers, was newly released on The Lancet(The Lancet is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, with an impact factor of 45.2 from 2014 to 2015).
Based on a research of the physical situation of nearly 20 thousand people aged 80-105 in China, Zeng and others found that in 2008, themortality and disability ratio of the oldest old dropped significantly compared with their counterparts in 1998; however, those surveyed in 2008 had worse physical and cognitive condition than a decade before. The researchers gave the following explanation to these opposing results. On one hand, the oldest olds’ state of health has fairly ameliorated owing to the development of medical technology, the improvement of the quality of life and the increase of socioeconomic status, postponing disability and chronic diseases. On the other hand, although a greater number of elders are saved and thus survived thanks to better medical and living conditions, they face higher risks of suffering from declined physical ability and cognitive ability, which may impose severe challenges on public health system and family felicity.
In the domain of population aging and elders’ health, there preexisted a “success of success” theory, claiming that with the advancements in social economy, the period of disability of the aged would shorten as their life span extends. However, another popular theory “failure of success” stated that since prolonging life allows more weaklings to survive, the ratio of physical disabilities would increase among the elders. At present, no conclusion has been reached on this matter.
In this paper, Zeng and other researchers recommend using terms like “costs of success” and “benefit of success” to designate this phenomenon and carried out a corresponding analysis on the costs and benefits. The core idea of this analysis is that the side effects of the benefits of prolonged life span are not the so-called “failures” and there is no need to panic over them. They also pointed out that decision-makers should bear the responsibility of enacting and implementing a series of effective policies to ensure healthy aging.
The Lance released this paper online as a major scientific discovery, calling it “the largest study of its kind” and announcing that “its findings are of great significance to countries facing the challenge of population aging.”
Written by: Wei Yunqi
Edited by: Xu Penghang