The Life and Health Status of Urban Elderly People in Beijing, ChinaBackground Population ageing has becoming an important development issue that requires urgent action. Health, economic and social issues of ageing are inextricably linked to the development process. Living arrangements are influenced by a variety of factors including health status, cultural traditions and social services and support. In turn,living arrangements affect life satisfaction, health and so on. Living alone or only with a spouse is increasingly becoming a trend in the developed countries. Methods Using deliberate sampling method, we selected a typical mixed community in the urban areas of Beijing. From November 10 to 18, 2001, using a questionnaire, we personally interviewed 90% of the qualified subjects including men and women: 60 years or older, Chinese and living in the urban areas of Beijing for at least 3 years. The present living arrangement and preferred living arrangement were asked. The data on the selfreported chronic diseases were collected by a checklist for the presence of ten common chronic diseases. Information was also collected on the self-reported of limitations in 13 separate activity of daily living (ADL) items. The Chinese version of the Personal Interview SF-36 and the standard methods to score the SF-36 were used to measure the health of the elderly objectively.Results The population ageing is a fact in Beijing urban areas and seem to be at its early stage. Though living with a spouse and children was the most common living arrangement for the old persons, the rate of those living alone or only with a spouse reached 35.0%. If the conditions allowed, there were 58.4% of the old people whopreferred to live alone or only with a spouse. The general prevalence of chronic disease was 80.8%. And hypertension, osteoporosis and coronary heart diseases were the first three common chronic diseases and prevalence were 38.0%, 24.0% and 22.6% respectively. 48.3% of the old people can do all the ADL activities on their own easily, and there were 9.4%, 34.4% and 46.5% with personal care, gross mobility and range of motion limitations respectively. According to the SF-36 test, the health of the old persons was quite good. The score on emotion, social activities and mental was better than that on physical aspects.