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Social Comparison And Subjective Well-Being: Does The Health Of Others Matter?


  • Vincenzo Carrieri

    () (Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica, Università della Calabria)


The importance of social comparison in shaping individual utility has been widely documented by subjective well-being literature. So far, income has been the main dimension considered in social comparison. This paper aims to investigate whether subjective well-being is influenced by inter-personal comparison with respect to health. Thus, we study the effects of the health of others and relative health hypothesis on two measures of subjective well-being: happiness and subjective health. Using data from the Italian Health Conditions survey, we show that a high incidence of chronic conditions and disability among reference groups negatively affects both happiness and subjective health. Such effects are stronger among people in the same conditions. These results, robust to different econometric specifications and estimation techniques, suggest the presence of some sympathy in individual preferences with respect to health and reveal that other people?s health status serves as a benchmark to assess one?s own health conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincenzo Carrieri, 2010. "Social Comparison And Subjective Well-Being: Does The Health Of Others Matter?," Working Papers 201014, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza "Giovanni Anania" - DESF.
  • Handle: RePEc:clb:wpaper:201014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eddy van Doorslaer & Xander Koolman, 2004. "Explaining the differences in income-related health inequalities across European countries," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(7), pages 609-628.
    2. Luiz de Mello & Erwin R. Tiongson, 2009. "What Is the Value of (My and My Family's) Good Health?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 594-610, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. S. Wouters & N. Exel & M. Donk & K. Rohde & W. Brouwer, 2015. "Do people desire to be healthier than other people? A short note on positional concerns for health," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 16(1), pages 47-54, January.
    2. Bechetti, Leonardo & Conzo, Pierluigi & Di Febbraro, Mirko, 2015. "Voluntary Work, Health and Subjective Wellbeing: a Resource for Active Ageing," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201511, University of Turin.
    3. Vincenzo Carrieri & Vito Peragine, 2014. "Decomposing inequality 'at work': Cross-country evidence from EU-SILC," Working papers 15, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
    4. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0596-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. France Weaver & Judite Goncalves & Valerie-Anne Ryser, 2015. "Socioeconomic inequalities in subjective well-being among the 50+: contributions of income and health," Research Papers by the Institute of Economics and Econometrics, Geneva School of Economics and Management, University of Geneva 15011, Institut d'Economie et Econométrie, Université de Genève.
    6. Carrieri, Vincenzo & De Paola, Maria, 2012. "Height and subjective well-being in Italy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 289-298.
    7. Vincenzo Carrieri & Maria De Paola, 2011. "The Effects Of Peoples’ Height And Relative Height On Well-Being," Working Papers 201110, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza "Giovanni Anania" - DESF.
    8. Lars Thiel, 2014. "Illness and Health Satisfaction: The Role of Relative Comparisons," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 695, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

    More about this item


    health conditions; social comparison; subjective well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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