How long can we expect to remain healthy? Researchers from the Health Economics Research Center (HECON), operating within the University Innovation and Research Center at the Óbuda University, conducted a national survey on the population’s subjective expectations. This research is extremely important as most European countries keep track of the expected total and healthy lifespan at birth and age 65. While official statistics provide important information on the functioning of the healthcare system at the national level, limited data is available on individuals. In recent decades, in developed economies, the rate of increase in healthcare costs has not been proportional to the expected lifespan. At the same time, health policymakers and decision-makers increasingly view improving quality of life and increasing the expected healthy lifespan as the primary goal and key performance indicator of healthcare systems.
This formed the basis for HECON’s new research, which aimed to survey subjective expectations regarding the healthy lifespan and compare them with official statistical data. The survey, conducted among people aged 50 and over, applied the methodology of official statistics at the individual level, making it one of the first in the world to measure individual expectations regarding the healthy lifespan in a comparable way. Previous research has shown that individual subjective expectations reflect their actual life expectancy well and significantly influence their decisions related to their health and finances. Surprisingly, people’s subjective expectations regarding their lifespan are very close to official statistical data, despite the fact that most people have limited knowledge of official statistics.
The HECON research provided many interesting findings about people’s thinking related to their health. While the estimates of the entire population regarding the average life expectancy can be considered accurate, people generally underestimate their healthy lifespan. While men and women have similar subjective expectations regarding their healthy and total lifespan, in reality, women can expect to live longer and can more accurately determine their life expectancy and health status than men. Men over the age of 60 significantly overestimated their remaining lifespan while being ill. People mostly estimated their healthy life expectancy based on their age, current health status, place of residence, and lifestyle, while the subjective life expectancy depended on their loved ones’ age, happiness level, social environment, and whether they judged their lifestyle healthier or less healthy than others. There were many differences between men and women’s influencing factors. Unfortunately, proven risk factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle did not affect expectations regarding healthy lifespan and life expectancy for either gender. In fact, one sign of the misconceptions about health among the population is that overweight men expected to live longer than men with a normal weight.
The research was conducted by the following participants: Prof. László Gulácsi, Prof. Márta Péntek, and Dr. Zsombor Zrubka from the Health Economics Center (HECON) at the University of Óbuda’s University Research and Innovation Center (EKIK); Prof. Levente Kovács and Dr. Tamás Ferenci from the Physiology Regulations (PhysCon) Research Group of EKIK; and Dr. Áron Kincses, Deputy President of the Central Statistical Office (KSH). The summary of the original publication in English can be found at the following link, which was published in a prestigious international journal.