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Smile or Die: Can Subjective Well-Being Increase Survival in the Face of Substantive Health Impairments?

Author

Listed:
  • Martin Binder

    () (Bard College Berlin)

  • Guido Buenstorf

    (University of Kassel)

Abstract

A robust relationship between subjective well-being and mortality has been established in the literature. While this relationship has been confirmed for many measures and data sets, few studies address how it is affected by concrete diseases. In this paper we assess for the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) data set from 1991-2008 how life satisfaction interacts with twelve concrete health impairments. Specifically, we analyze whether subjective well-being predicts longer survival in the panel for individuals having the respective impairments. We find that cancer, chest pains and diabetes consistently decrease survival in our sample, even controlling for the severity of health problems. But our results cast doubt on strong claims for the benefits of well-being on mortality: while life satisfaction generally predicts longer survival in the data set, this finding is not robust to controlling for the endogeneity of subjective well-being, and we do not find significant interactions between substantive health impairments and life satisfaction. Higher subjective well-being may keep you healthy, but once you have gotten sick, it does not predict your survival.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Binder & Guido Buenstorf, 2016. "Smile or Die: Can Subjective Well-Being Increase Survival in the Face of Substantive Health Impairments?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201633, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  • Handle: RePEc:mar:magkse:201633
    as

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    File URL: http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb02/makro/forschung/magkspapers/paper_2016/33-2016_binder.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    subjective well-being; health; survival analysis; longevity; BHPS; life satisfaction;

    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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