Self-regulation and Health

Henry Saffer

NBER Working Paper No. 20483
Issued in September 2014
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

The purposes of this paper are to measure self-regulation, to investigate whether self-regulation differs across different health related choices, to estimate its effect on health choices and to estimate the effect of self-regulation on health-demographic gradients. The theory and empirical approach to self-regulation employed in this paper relies on a broad literature which includes economics, psychology and experimental studies. In addition, a novel empirical approach is employed to create a single measure of self-regulation that can vary across domains. A single measure of self-regulation in place of a set of proxy variables allows for the study of how self-regulation is correlated across different health choices. The results show that there is a high correlation in self-regulation for smoking, drinking, drug use, crime and gambling, but that self-regulation for BMI (body mass index) and obesity are different than self-regulation for the other outcomes. The results show that self-regulation has a significant negative effect on all choices. The results also show that self-regulation generally reduces the effect of education on health but education retains a negative and significant relationship with all outcomes. The research presented in this paper also raises questions about the effect of omitted individual heterogeneity in measuring the effects of public policy.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20483

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