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09.01.2016 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

The European Journal of Health Economics 1/2017

A short note on measuring subjective life expectancy: survival probabilities versus point estimates

The European Journal of Health Economics > Ausgabe 1/2017
David R. Rappange, Job van Exel, Werner B. F. Brouwer


Understanding subjective longevity expectations is important, but measurement is not straightforward. Two common elicitation formats are the direct measurement of a subjective point estimate of life expectancy and the assessment of survival probabilities to a range of target ages. This study presents one of the few direct comparisons of these two methods. Results from a representative sample of the Dutch population indicate that respondents on average gave higher estimates of longevity using survival probabilities (83.6 years) compared to point estimates (80.2 years). Individual differences between elicitation methods were smaller for younger respondents and for respondents with a higher socioeconomic status. The correlation between the subjective longevity estimations was moderate, but their associations with respondents’ characteristics were similar. Our results are in line with existing literature and suggest that findings from both elicitation methods may not be directly comparable, especially in certain subgroups of the population. Implications of inconsistent and focal point answers, rounding and anchoring require further attention. More research on the measurement of subjective expectations is required.

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