01 Nov 2005

Health and Morbidity by Age and Socio-Economic Characteristics

Richard Layte / Anne Nolan / Brian Nolan / Tom Van Ourti

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Expenditure on medical treatment has tended to rise as a proportion of national income throughout the European Union. A particular concern is that, with an ageing population, the pressures on health expenditure will increase further. The aim of this particular work package is to describe and model health and morbidity, and the associated use of health services, by age and socio-economic characteristics across the EU. Although many studies find that time to mortality, rather than age, is more important in determining health care costs, owing to the nature of our data we concentrate on the effect of age on both health status and health services utilisation.

Using longitudinal micro-data from the European Community Household Panel (ECHP), we estimate multivariate models of health status and health services utilisation for each of the EU-15 member states. This research highlights that while there is a similar pattern of worsening health status and increasing health services utilisation as age increases, much of this variation is removed when we account for differences in socio-economic characteristics (and health status where applicable). This finding concurs with previous research that argues that it is time to mortality rather than ageing per se that plays a large part in determining health care expenditures. A further lesson from this research is that the age-health and age-utilisation relationships may also be affected by the particular cultural and institutional factors of the country concerned, including the gate-keeping role of GPs, the extent of eligibility for free care, etc.

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