Research trends in contemporary health economics: a scientometric analysis on collective content of specialty journals

Clara C. Zwack*, Milad Haghani, Esther W. de Bekker-Grob

*Corresponding author for this work

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Health economics is a thriving sub-discipline of economics. Applied health economics research is considered essential in the health care sector and is used extensively by public policy makers. For scholars, it is important to understand the history and status of health economics—when it emerged, the rate of research output, trending topics, and its temporal evolution—to ensure clarity and direction when formulating research questions. 


Nearly 13,000 articles were analysed, which were found in the collective publications of the ten most specialised health economic journals. We explored this literature using patterns of term co-occurrence and document co-citation. 


The research output in this field is growing exponentially. Five main research divisions were identified: (i) macroeconomic evaluation, (ii) microeconomic evaluation, (iii) measurement and valuation of outcomes, (iv) monitoring mechanisms (evaluation), and (v) guidance and appraisal. Document co-citation analysis revealed eighteen major research streams and identified variation in the magnitude of activities in each of the streams. A recent emergence of research activities in health economics was seen in the Medicaid Expansion stream. Established research streams that continue to show high levels of activity include Child Health, Health-related Quality of Life (HRQoL) and Cost-effectiveness. Conversely, Patient Preference, Health Care Expenditure and Economic Evaluation are now past their peak of activity in specialised health economic journals. Analysis also identified several streams that emerged in the past but are no longer active. 


Health economics is a growing field, yet there is minimal evidence of creation of new research trends. Over the past 10 years, the average rate of annual increase in internationally collaborated publications is almost double that of domestic collaborations (8.4% vs 4.9%), but most of the top scholarly collaborations remain between six countries only.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalHealth Economics Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024

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