Mujaheed Shaikh co-authors study on health misperception and the elderly

Study in Journal of the Economics of Ageing examines health perception and use of healthcare services.

How the elderly perceive the state of their health can have consequences for their own health decisions – like whether to visit a doctor or not. A new study by Sonja Spitzer of the University of Vienna and Hertie School Professor of Health Governance Mujaheed Shaikh finds that individuals who overestimate their health visit the doctor 17.0% less often than those who correctly assess their health, which is crucial for preventive care such as screenings.

The authors also found that individuals who underestimate their health visit the doctor 21.4% more frequently. The effects of misperception are similar for dentist visits, but the authors find no effects on hospital stays.

The study, published in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of the Economics of Ageing, looks at the relationship between health perception and doctor visits for Europeans over 50 years of age in 15 countries. The authors define health misperception as the level of over- or underconfidence people have in their own health – in other words, whether they overestimate or underestimate how healthy they are. In the study, they compare objective performance measures and their self-reported equivalents from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe.

Despite the relevance of health misperception, its role in healthcare seeking is largely unexplored, the authors say.

“Individuals who underestimate their health may overutilise healthcare services by seeking care and purchasing relatively more medication when it is not necessary—at least in the short run. In the long run, however, they might need less care because of their frequent doctor visits and timely diagnoses,” Spitzer and Shaikh write. “Assessing the relationship between health perception and healthcare utilisation thus remains an empirical task that we undertake in this study.”

Find the study here.


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