Educated healthier, but hardly cheaper for the health system

It has long been known that there is a connection between social status and people’s health. The Economic Research Institute (Wifo) has now looked at how the unequal use of the health system in the educational groups affects the future development of costs. The result: more education has a slightly dampening effect on the rise in costs. However, the expected increase in healthy years of life has a much stronger effect.

That the wealthier and the educated live longer can be seen in Vienna, for example: life expectancy is highest in the rich inner city, in Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus or Meidling women have to reckon with six and a half years shorter lives, men even seven years Wifo citing figures from Statistics Austria. “Similar orders of magnitude are always to be found when comparing the mortality rates of population groups with very different socio-economic characteristics,” the study says.

However, it has now also been examined how this status affects the use of the health system and thus its cost development. As expected, it was found that the health of people with a higher level of education is significantly better than that of the other educational groups, regardless of gender. Accordingly, the Wifo calculated that the costs, at least for women with a higher level of education, are 13 percent lower than those for women with no more than compulsory schooling.

The pattern was not so clear for men; all educational groups show approximately the same costs in the longitudinal section. This is due to the fact that the differences in life expectancy of men after education are more pronounced than those of women and the higher life expectancy of people with a higher level of education compensates for the lower health expenditure in the individual phases of life.

None of this changes the fact that the Wifo is assuming a significant increase in health costs for the population in Austria in the coming decades. Increasing life expectancy plays a central role in this. In contrast, according to the expectations of economic researchers, the future changes in the educational structure will only have a slightly dampening effect on the expected increase in costs.

According to Wifo, the effects of the assumptions on the future development of healthy life years are much stronger. If “slower” aging is assumed with increasing life expectancy, in which the healthy years of life increase proportionally, the costs decrease by about ten percent at the end of the observation period (2060), according to the researchers.

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