Health Misperception and Healthcare Utilisation of Older Europeans

Sonja Spitzer, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital
Mujaheed Shaikh , Hertie School of Governance

Understanding the drivers of healthcare utilisation in Europe is of utmost importance in the context of rapid population ageing and increasing public health expenditure. This paper explores individual health perception biases as a potential determinant of doctor visits and concomitant out-of-pocket expenditure. Based on longitudinal data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, we observe how biased beliefs about health status affect healthcare utilisation of the population 50+ in 15 European countries. Using biomarkers and their self-reported equivalents, we find that individuals who underestimate their health visit the doctor more often than individuals who correctly assess their health. The higher healthcare utilisation is accompanied by larger out-of-pocket payments. By contrast, individuals that overestimate their health visit the doctor less often and have lower out-of-pocket payments. The effects are larger for men, which is particularly relevant given the well documented gender differences in healthcare seeking behaviour.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy