Health or Happiness? A note on the relative value of health and happiness in rationing decisions

Liesbet Wetering, Job van Exel, Werner Brouwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background Economic evaluations typically value the effects of an intervention in terms of quality-adjusted life-years, which combine length and health-related quality of life. It has been suggested that economic evaluations should incorporate broader outcomes than health-related quality of life. Broader well-being, for instance measured as happiness, could be a better measure of the overall welfare effects in patients because of treatment. An underexplored question is whether and how people trade off information on health and broader outcomes from treatment in rationing decisions. Objectives This article presents the results of a first experiment aimed at exploring such trade-offs between health and happiness. Methods We used a Web-based questionnaire in a representative sample of the public from the Netherlands (N = 1015). People made choices between two groups of patients differing in terms of their health and happiness levels before treatment and gains from treatment. Results The results showed that about half the respondents were willing to discriminate between patient groups on the basis of their health and happiness levels before and after treatment. In the trader group, health gains were considered somewhat more important than happiness gains. Conclusions Our findings suggest that both health and happiness levels of patients may play a role in priority setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-557
Number of pages6
JournalValue in Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-05-63-02 Quality


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