Catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) has considerable effects on household living standards, but little is known regarding the relationships between CHE and people’s mental health. Using China as an example, this study examines the association between CHE and mental health and investigates whether the association differs between those with and without social health insurance (SHI).
The data came from three waves of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS 2011, 2013, and 2015, N = 13,166). We focused on older people aged 60 and above. We built panel data regression and quantile regression models to analyse the data.
Incurring CHE is significantly associated with poor mental health. The association is weakened among older people receiving SHI, which indicates that SHI has a protective effect. Moreover, the association between CHE and mental health and the protective effect of SHI are stronger among those with mild or moderate mental health problems.
Our findings provide empirical evidence that encourages the integration of psychologically informed approaches in health services. We also urge governments in low- and middle-income countries to consider more generous health financing mechanisms for older people with greater healthcare needs.