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Smile or die: Can subjective well-being increase survival in the face of substantive health impairments?

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  • Binder, Martin
  • Buenstorf, Guido

Abstract

A robust relationship between subjective well-being and mortality has been established in the literature, but few studies address how subjective well-being interacts with the impact of concrete diseases on survival. In addition, issues of endogeneity between bad health and subjective well-being are ignored when it comes to survival. We assess both for the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS; 1991–2008) and specifically analyze whether subjective well-being predicts better chances of surviving diseases such as cancer or heart conditions. We find that several of the studied diseases consistently decrease survival chances in our sample (e.g. hazard ratio 3.47 for cancer), also when controlling for the severity of health problems. But our results do not suggest that well-being mitigates the effect these diseases have on mortality. Life satisfaction also does not predict longer survival in the data set if we control for the endogeneity of subjective well-being.

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  • Binder, Martin & Buenstorf, Guido, 2018. "Smile or die: Can subjective well-being increase survival in the face of substantive health impairments?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 209-227.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:31:y:2018:i:c:p:209-227
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2018.08.004
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subjective well-being; Health; Survival analysis; Longevity; BHPS; Life satisfaction;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • C41 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Duration Analysis; Optimal Timing Strategies

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