Mortality and Health Expectations

This chapter surveys recent research on mortality and health expectations, focusing on studies that use probabilistic expectations data elicited in household surveys. We pay particular attention to measurement issues and best practices in modeling these data, such as accounting for measurement error, rounding, focal responses, and biases toward the middle of the probability scale (50%). Our focus is research on expectations about mortality, nursing home use, out-of-pocket medical expenditures, substance use, dementia, cancer, HIV infections, and other health outcomes. We discuss the properties of the available data and show discrepancies between expectations and objective risks when such biases are present. Then we discuss research studies that analyzed the relationship between expectations and related economic and health outcomes, such as consumption and savings, demand for various insurance products, demand for medical screening, having untreated hypertension, and taking up and quitting smoking. Throughout, we highlight gaps and open questions in the literature.

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RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.

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