Older people who overestimate their health are less likely to see a doctor. This can have serious consequences for their health, for example, when diseases are detected too late. In contrast, people who think they are sicker than actually visit the doctor more often. This found a new study by Sonia Spitzer of the Institute of Demography at the University of Vienna and Mujahideen Sheikh of the Herti School in Berlin, based on data from more than 80,000 Europeans aged 50 and over. The results were published in Journal of the Economics of Aging.
Our confidence influences our behavior. People who overestimate their abilities earn more, invest their money differently, and are more likely to be leaders. But they are also more risky, have more accidents and live less healthily by drinking more alcohol, eating less healthily and sleeping too little.
The way people perceive their health can also have implications for their own health decisions – such as whether or not to see a doctor. A new study by Sonia Spitzer from the University of Vienna and Herti Mujahideen Sheikh, a professor at the school, found that people who overestimated their health visited the doctor 17.0% less often than those who properly assessed their health, which is crucial for prevention. care, such as screening. Similar results were found during visits to the dentist.
However, the perception of one’s own health does not affect the number and duration of hospital stays; probably because hospital stays are more regulated and often require a doctor’s referral.
Those who think they are sicker than they visit the doctor more often
The authors also found that people who underestimated their health visited the doctor 21% more often. On the one hand, there is the disadvantage that these additional visits can lead to unnecessary costs, which is appropriate given the aging population and the associated high public health costs. On the other hand, people who underestimate their health and therefore pay close attention to it can be particularly useful in the long run, which can have a positive impact on society. In general, it is difficult for outsiders to judge which visits are justified and which are not.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 80,000 Europeans aged 50 and over using statistical methods. The data were collected as part of the SHARE (European Health, Aging and Retirement Survey) between 2006 and 2013. First, participants were asked how they rate their health, such as whether they have trouble getting up from a chair after sitting for long periods of time. Participants then had to actually get up from a chair during a test – this way it can be determined whether someone is overestimating, underestimating or correctly assessing their health. Researchers also took into account erroneous judgments about memory and mobility. Overall, the majority of respondents rated their health correctly (79%), 11% overestimated and 10% underestimated themselves.
Who knows about their health?
With their new study, researchers build on a previous study that showed that perceptions of health differ significantly depending on age, nationality and education. The older people are, the more often they overestimate their health. Researchers also found large regional differences: according to the analysis, people in southern Europe tend to overestimate their health, while people in Central and Eastern Europe often underestimate their health. Educated people are also more likely to assess their health properly. The call of scientists: Focus more on health education and health literacy. How healthy we feel can affect how healthy we actually are in the long run.
Reference in the magazine:
Spitzer, S & Shaikh, M., (2022) Misperceptions of health and the use of health care among older Europeans. Journal of the Economics of Aging. doi.org/10.1016/j.jeoa.2022.100383.