Yes, health is important, but as much for its importance via social life: The direct and indirect effects of health on subjective well-being in chronically ill individuals

from Health Economics at on June 29, 2017 at 06:55AM


There is an increasing evidence that health-related quality of life, income, and social relationships are important to our subjective well-being (SWB). Little is known, however, about the specific indirect pathways that link health to SWB via social relationships and income. On the basis of a unique data set of 7 disease groups from 6 OECD-countries (N = 6,173), we investigate the direct and indirect effects of health on SWB by using structural equation modeling. Three alternative measures of health are used: For generic instruments (EQ-5D-5L; SF-6D), the total indirect effect was stronger (0.226; 0.249) than its direct effect (0.157; 0.205). For the visual analogue scale, the direct effect was stronger (0.322) than its total indirect effect (0.179). Most of the indirect effect of improved health on SWB transmitted through social relationships. The effect via income was small. Nevertheless, the presence of unmeasured confounders may bias the estimates. An important lesson for researchers is to include meaningful items on social relationships when measuring the benefits from improved health. An important lesson for policy makers is that social isolation appears to be more detrimental to overall well-being than ill health. Hence, the Health and Care Services should facilitate social arenas for people with chronic conditions.