Reports 2020/29

Economy, health and well-being

An analysis of the EU-SILC Survey of level of living 2017

This publication is in Norwegian only.

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This report, based on the EU-SILC 2017 Survey of level of living, shows a correlation between two of the most important dimensions of welfare: Economy and health. Persons with low income and little financial wealth, report substantially more often than the richest and wealthiest that they suffer from different kinds of health problems. The distances between the deciles of income are up to 20-25 percentage points for two self-reported indicators of health. The level of income decreases rather evenly with the increase of health problems but is particularly low for the small group that have «very bad» self-reported health.

In an analysis controlling for a number of other characteristics, such as educational level and demographic variables, we find that each of the two health indicators is associated with an income loss of 15-16 per cent for men and 10-15 per cent for women. The loss is stronger among single men and for men with only compulsory education. The two health measures are correlated with an even stronger reduction of financial wealth, 29-39 per cent. In this case also, we find stronger associations among single and lowly educated men.

The report also analyses the association between economic resources and subjective well-being. Satisfaction with life increases rather evenly with increasing income, while the correlation with financial wealth is weaker. In analyses controlling for other relevant characteristics, there is a particularly strong correlation between satisfaction with life and difficulties “making ends meet” with the household income. This finding is in line with earlier research, pointing to economic problems as one of the biggest happiness or “satisfaction thieves” in Norwegian society.

That persons with health problems have, on average, lower incomes and less wealth, can contribute to the experience of necessary health expenditures as a burden. Among persons that have major activity limitations in everyday life caused by health problems, nearly three out of ten (29 per cent) experience one or more types of health expenditures as «very burdensome». In the whole sample the percentage is 7. It is expenditures for dental treatment that are most burdensome.

The group that have both diminished health and few economic resources, is particularly at risk. The report considers the size of this group, with estimates ranging from 2 to 8 per cent of the adult population. The analysis shows that this is a group that reports an unusually high number of economic problems. Relatively many in this group also experience health expenditures as burdensome. We find signs of an interaction effect between the amount of economic resources and health. Not least is the association between diminished health and the lack of important goods and services stronger among persons who have few economic resources.

One of the most important goals of the welfare state is to provide economic security in case of sickness and disability. The indicators used in this report suggest that economic insecurity is considerably more widespread among persons with bad than with good health. As an example, among people who experience major activity limitations due to health problems, nearly one in three find it relatively difficult or difficult to make ends meet and would not be able to pay a larger unforeseen bill, compared to slightly more than one in ten among those without any such limitations. On the other hand, the data also show that the large majority of those with diminished health do not have these problems. Most of the sick and disabled seem to be ok, financially speaking. But for some groups, not least those who have both diminished health and few economic resources, this conclusion is more questionable. This group runs a particularly high risk of experiencing economic insecurity, even when the criteria for defining the group are rather wide.

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