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Is the US Population Behaving Healthier?

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  • David M. Cutler
  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Allison B. Rosen

Abstract

In the past few decades, some measures of population risk have improved, while others have deteriorated. Understanding the health of the population requires integrating these different trends. We compare the risk factor profile of the population in the early 1970s with that of the population in the early 2000s and consider the impact of a continuation of recent trends. Despite substantial increases in obesity in the past three decades, the overall population risk profile is healthier now than it was formerly. For the population aged 25-74, the 10 year probability of death fell from 9.8 percent in 1971-75 to 8.4 percent in 1999-2002. Among the population aged 55-74, the 10 year risk of death fell from 25.7 percent to 21.7 percent. The largest contributors to these changes were the reduction in smoking and better control of blood pressure. Increased obesity increased risk, but not by as large a quantitative amount. In the future, however, increased obesity may play a larger role than continued reductions in smoking. We estimate that a continuation of trends over the past three decades to the next three decades might offset about a third of the behavioral improvements witnessed in recent years.

Suggested Citation

  • David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Allison B. Rosen, 2007. "Is the US Population Behaving Healthier?," NBER Working Papers 13013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Economic Aspects of Health," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fuch82-1.
    2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    3. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the United States," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 189-221.
    4. David M. Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 12352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Introduction to "Economic Aspects of Health"," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 1-12 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Arendt, Jacob Nielsen, 2005. "Does education cause better health? A panel data analysis using school reforms for identification," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 149-160, April.
    7. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from compulsory schooling," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2213-2229, December.
    8. Elo, Irma T. & Preston, Samuel H., 1996. "Educational differentials in mortality: United States, 1979-1985," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 47-57, January.
    9. Fuchs, Victor R. (ed.), 1982. "Economic Aspects of Health," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226267852, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cutler, David M. & Lange, Fabian & Meara, Ellen & Richards-Shubik, Seth & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2011. "Rising educational gradients in mortality: The role of behavioral risk factors," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1174-1187.
    2. David M. Cutler & Fabian Lange & Ellen Meara & Seth Richards & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2010. "Explaining the Rise in Educational Gradients in Mortality," NBER Working Papers 15678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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