Broken down by work and sex: how our health declines
Self-reported health status (SRHS) is an imperfect measure of non-fatal health, but allows examination of how health status varies over the life course. Although women have lower mortality than men, they report worse health status up to age 65. The SRHS of both men and women deteriorates with age. There are strong gradients, so that at age 20, men in the bottom quartile already report worse health than do men in the top quartile at age 50. In the bottom quartile of income, SRHS declines more rapidly with age, but only until retirement age. These facts motivate a study of the role of work, particularly manual work, in health decline with age. The Grossman capital-stock model of health assumes a technology in which money and time can effect complete health repair. As a result, declines in health status are driven, not by the rate of deterioration of the health stock, but by the rate of increase of the rate of deterioration. We argue that such a technology is implausible, and we show that people in manual occupations have worse SRHS and more rapidly declining SRHS, even with a comprehensive set of controls for income and education. We also find that much of the differences in SRHS across the income distribution is driven by health-related absence from the labor-force, which is a mechanism running from health to income, not the reverse.
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