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Long-run improvements in human health: Steady but unequal


  • Abeliansky, Ana Lucia
  • Strulik, Holger


There exists a steady trend at which later born cohorts, at the same age, are healthier than earlier born cohorts. We show this trend by computing a health deficit index for a panel of 14 European Countries and six waves of the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). We find that for each year of later birth, health deficits decline by on average 1.4 - 1.5 percent with insignificant differences between men and women, between countries, and over time. We argue that this trend approximates the rate of medical progress, broadly defined. The steady progress implies substantial delays of human aging. For example, the level of health deficits experienced at age 65 by individuals born 1920 is predicted to be experienced at age 85 by individuals born 1945. The potential health gains are not fully appropriated by individuals of low socio-economic status. Their health deficits decline at about the same rate but from a higher level, which means that we find long-run persistence of health inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Abeliansky, Ana Lucia & Strulik, Holger, 2018. "Long-run improvements in human health: Steady but unequal," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 355, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cegedp:355

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Skinner, 2012. "Technology Growth and Expenditure Growth in Health Care," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(3), pages 645-680, September.
    2. Holger Strulik & Sebastian Vollmer, 2013. "Long-run trends of human aging and longevity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(4), pages 1303-1323, October.
    3. Morgan E. Levine & Eileen M. Crimmins, 2018. "Is 60 the New 50? Examining Changes in Biological Age Over the Past Two Decades," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(2), pages 387-402, April.
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    6. Abeliansky, Ana Lucia & Strulik, Holger, 2018. "How season of birth affects health and aging," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 352, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    7. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Holger Strulik, 2014. "Optimal Aging And Death: Understanding The Preston Curve," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 672-701, June.
    8. Abeliansky, Ana Lucia & Strulik, Holger, 2018. "Hungry children age faster," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 211-220.
    9. Chernew, Michael E. & Newhouse, Joseph P., 2011. "Health Care Spending Growth," Handbook of Health Economics, in: Mark V. Pauly & Thomas G. Mcguire & Pedro P. Barros (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1-43, Elsevier.
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    13. Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
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    More about this item


    health; aging; health deficit index; medical progress; health inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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