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Utility Functions for Life Years and Health Status


  • Joseph S. Pliskin

    (Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel)

  • Donald S. Shepard

    (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts)

  • Milton C. Weinstein

    (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts)


Multiattribute utility theory is used to suggest a form for a utility function over life years and health status. The analysis is motivated by consideration of two diseases—coronary artery disease and chronic kidney disease—in which the choice of treatment may depend on the patient's tradeoff between these attributes. Certain plausible independence properties lead to a quasi-additive utility function for life years and health status. Particular attention is given to utility functions for life years exhibiting constant proportional risk posture. An empirical assessment shows that stated preferences appear consistent with this functional form. The derived utility functions have been applied to the treatment decision of whether to prescribe coronary artery bypass graft surgery in patients with coronary artery disease.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph S. Pliskin & Donald S. Shepard & Milton C. Weinstein, 1980. "Utility Functions for Life Years and Health Status," Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 28(1), pages 206-224, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:oropre:v:28:y:1980:i:1:p:206-224

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    3. Hoffmann, Sandra & Anekwe, Tobenna D., 2013. "Making Sense of Recent Cost-of-Foodborne-Illness Estimates," Economic Information Bulletin 262123, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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    5. Dionne, Georges & Lebeau, Martin, 2010. "Le calcul de la valeur statistique d’une vie humaine," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 86(4), pages 487-530, décembre.
    6. Alan M. Garber & Charles E. Phelps, 1992. "Economic Foundations of Cost Effective Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Mark D. Agee & Thomas D. Crocker, 2004. "Transferring Measures of Adult Health Benefits to Children: A Review of Issues and Results," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(4), pages 468-482, October.
    9. Barnsley, P. & Cubi-Molla, P. & Fischer, A. & Towse, A., 2016. "Uncertainty and Risk in HTA Decision Making," Research Papers 001764, Office of Health Economics.
    10. James Hammitt & Nicolas Treich, 2007. "Statistical vs. identified lives in benefit-cost analysis," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 45-66, August.
    11. Anne Spencer, 2001. "The Time Trade-Off Method: An Exploratory Study," Working Papers 437, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
    12. Anne Spencer, 2001. "The Implications of Linking Questions within the SG and TTO Methods," Working Papers 438, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
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    14. Hammond, Peter J. & Liberini, Federica & Proto, Eugenio, 2011. "Individual Welfare and Subjective Well-Being : Commentary Inspired by Sacks, Stevenson and Wolfers," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 957, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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    16. Svensson, Mikael & Hultkrantz, Lars, 2012. "The Willingness to Pay for a QALY - Results based on value of statistical life estimates in Sweden," Karlstad University Working Papers in Economics 2, Karlstad University, Department of Economics.
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