Economic Development and Population Mental Health: Evidence from the China Agricultural Reform in the Early 1980s

Cheng Huang, George Washington University
Chaoran Guo, University of California, Berkeley
Xiaobo Zhang, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Increasing evidence has suggested that the prenatal and early postnatal period of life is critical to adult health and wellbeing. The China Agriculture Reform in early 1980s and the consequent improvement in food production, following a pre-reform period when agricultural performance was extremely poor and food shortages were common, presents a unique opportunity to study the long-term health consequences of nutritional improvement during the critical first 1,000 days. We therefore used a unique data from the largest epidemiological survey on mental disorders conducted in four provinces in 2001–2005, to examine the potential mental health disparities among Chinese born between 1975 and 1987, roughly including pre-reform (1975–1980), during reform (1981–1984), and post-reform (1985–1987). The purposes of this study were twofold. First, we estimated the potential long-term effect of the reform on mental illness. Second, we tested whether effect of reform (nutrition) on mental health is gender-specific.

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Presented in Session 180: Public Health and the Environment