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Health economic choices in old age: Interdisciplinary perspectives on economic decisions and the aging mind


ISBN: 978-1-84855-304-0, eISBN: 978-1-84855-305-7

Publication date: 1 December 2008


Purpose – This chapter offers an integrative review of psychological and neurobiological differences between younger and older adults that might impact economic behavior. Focusing on key health economic challenges facing the elderly, it offers perspectives on how these psychological and neurobiological factors may influence decision-making over the life course and considers future interdisciplinary research directions.

Methodology/approach – We review relevant literature from three domains that are essential for developing a comprehensive science of decision-making and economic behavior in aging (psychology, neuroscience, and economics), consider implications for prescription drug coverage and long-term care (LTC) insurance, and highlight future research directions.

Findings – Older adults face many complex economic decisions that directly affect their health and well-being, including LTC insurance, prescription drug plans, and end of life care. Economic research suggests that many older Americans are not making cost-effective and economically rational decisions. While economic models provide insight into some of the financial incentives associated with these decisions, they typically do not consider the roles of cognition and affect in decision-making. Research has established that older age is associated with predictable declines in many cognitive functions and evidence is accumulating that distinct social motives and affect-processing profiles emerge in older age. It is unknown how these age differences impact the economic behaviors of older people and implies opportunities for path-breaking interdisciplinary research.

Originality/value of the chapter – Our chapter looks to develop interdisciplinary research to better understand the causes and consequences of age-related changes in economic decision-making and guide interventions to improve public programs and overall social welfare.


Nielsen, L. and Phillips, J.W.R. (2008), "Health economic choices in old age: Interdisciplinary perspectives on economic decisions and the aging mind", Houser, D. and McCabe, K. (Ed.) Neuroeconomics (Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 227-270.



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