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Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes

Preference Measurement in Health

ISBN: 978-1-78441-029-2

Publication date: 27 August 2014



A rich literature has documented gender-based differences in health care utilization and outcomes. The role of risk attitude in explaining the variations is limited at best. This study examines gender differences in health utilities and risk attitudes.


Data on 13 health states were collected from 629 students via questionnaires at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2005. From each respondent, we assessed utilities for a subset of health states, using Time Trade-Off and Standard Gamble. A risk attitude coefficient was calculated for each respondent as a function of their utilities for all outcomes assessed. The risk coefficient derived from a closed-form utility model for men was compared to that of women using the t-statistic.


There was a statistically significant difference in the risk attitudes of men and women. Men had a concave utility function, representing risk aversion, while women had a near linear utility function, suggesting that women are risk neutral.

Practical/social implications

Differences in risk attitude may be an important contributor to gender-based disparities in health services utilization. More research is needed to assess its full impact on decision-making in health care.




The lead author of this work is the late Dr. L. Warshawsky-Livne who passed away at the young age of 42, on April 11, 2013, after bravely fighting with lymphoma for 3 years. Her doctoral thesis dealt with various issues relating to health care centers for women and brought us to study gender differences in attitudes toward health risks, leading to this chapter. Unfortunately, Dr. L. Warshawsky-Livne cannot rejoice in seeing this chapter published. We, her co-authors and her dear family, miss her warm personality and contagious smile and yet are pleased to publish the chapter as a tribute to her.


Warshawsky-Livne, L., Novack, L., Rosen, A.B., Downs, S.M., Shkolnik-Inbar, J. and Pliskin, J.S. (2014), "Gender Differences in Risk Attitudes", Preference Measurement in Health (Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 24), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 123-140.



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