14 May 2020
Population ageing reshapes the demand for healthcare substantially. It is important that efforts to adapt healthcare systems and to enhance the health of older adults be based on reliable information about health and healthcare behaviour. When researchers or policymakers ask health related questions, however, they often rely on self-reported rather than tested data. World Population Program researcher Sonja Spitzer and her colleagues Daniela Weber (IIASA) and Mujaheed Shaikh (Hertie School Berlin) aim to fill this gap with new research titled "How healthy are you really? Health misperception and healthcare utilisation among older Europeans".
This project, first explores the bias in health perception of older Europeans by comparing objective performance measures of physical and cognitive health with their self-reported equivalents. Results show that the bias in self-assessed health is mostly due to perception heterogeneities between countries and age groups, whereas gender contributes little to the discrepancy. Southern as well as Central and Eastern Europeans are much more likely to misreport their physical and cognitive abilities than Northern and Western Europeans. Overall, the results suggest that comparisons of self-reported health between countries and age groups are prone to significant biases, whereas comparisons between genders are credible for most European countries.
In a second step, this project studies the relationship between health misperception and healthcare utilisation. We find that individuals who overestimate their health visit the doctor less often than individuals who correctly assess their health, which is crucial for preventive care such as screenings. Lower healthcare utilisation is accompanied by lower out-of-pocket spending. In contrast, individuals who underestimate their health have higher healthcare utilisation We project that underestimating health of the population 50+ will cost the average European country Intl$ 71 million in 2020 and Intl$ 81 million by 2060. These findings are of utmost importance when successfully preparing healthcare systems for future demographic change.
Sonja Spitzer will present and discuss this project on 14 May 2020, 11AM - 1PM (CEST), during a Socioeconomics Research Seminar hosted by the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Spitzer is a research scholar at the World Population Program at IIASA. She is a population economist working on health, ageing, and economic wellbeing over the life course. She tackles questions related to healthy ageing as well as the economic impact of life events on households, examples are retirement or the birth of a child. She is particularly interested in issues related to survey data, for example, weighting adjustments or the evaluation of self-reported measures with objective information. For her research, she applies econometric as well as demographic methods.
For detailed information please visit the event website.
Last edited: 11 May 2020
Research at the World Population Program
Hammer, B., Spitzer, S. , Vargha, L., & Istenič, T. (2020). The gender dimension of intergenerational transfers in Europe. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing 15, e100234. 10.1016/j.jeoa.2019.100234.
Spitzer, S. (2020). Biases in health expectancies due to educational differences in survey participation of older Europeans: It’s worth weighting for. The European Journal of Health Economics 21, 573-605. 10.1007/s10198-019-01152-0.
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