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29.10.2019 | Original Paper Open Access

The company you keep: health behavior among work peers

The European Journal of Health Economics
Gerald J. Pruckner, Thomas Schober, Katrin Zocher
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10198-019-01124-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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There is widespread agreement that behavior crucially influences one’s health. However, little is known about what actually determines health-related behavior. We explore the impact of the place where many people spend most of their time, at work, and analyze whether an individual’s decision to participate in health screening is related to the observed behavior of peers at work. We use linked employer–employee data and exploit the transitions of workers to new jobs. We find that the health behavior of co-workers highly correlated. A comparison of individuals moving into new firms shows that participation in general health checks, mammography screening, and prostate-specific antigen tests increases with the share of work peers attending these screenings. To differentiate between peer effects and common influences at the workplace, we further separate the peer groups within firms and show that workers with similar characteristics tend to have a stronger effect on individual screening participation.

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