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University of Gothenburg
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Hälsoekonomi betraktar hälsa ur ett ekonomiskt perspektiv

What is health economics?

Health Economics applies and develops economic theory and methods on issues related to people’s health.

Development of theory and methods is essential in order to take the special features of health care and health into account. This goes, inter alia, for individual lifestyles and habits; decision-making in health- and social care; technologies for health; incentive structures and the conditions for public-health policy.

Health-economics research includes development of theory and methods as well as empirical applications. Mainly quantitative statistical or econometric methods are used, to some degree also qualitative methods. Some research issues are analysed using experiments. Collaboration with other health-related disciplines is legion.

A paper by Kenneth Arrow, published in the leading economic journal American Economic Review in 1963, is often referred to as the starting point for health-economics research. Since then there has been a steady growth of papers published in leading economic and medical journals and an increasing rate of specialization within the major field of health-economics research. In 1972, Arrow received the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Suggested reading!

Propper C. "Why economics is good for your health." 2004 Royal Economic Society Public Lecture. Health Economics 2005;14:987-997.

The three most cited health-economics publication internationally:

Arrow K. 2Uncertainty and the welfare economics of medical care". American Economic Review 1963;53:941-973.

Grossman M. "On the concept of health capital and the demand for health". Journal of Political Economy 1972;80:223-255.

Acemoglu D, Johnsson S, Robinson JA. "The colonial origins of comparative development: an empirical investigation." American Economic Review 2001;91:1369-1401.

The most cited publication by Swedish authors:

Färe R, Grosskopf S, Lindgren B, Roos P. "Productivity developments in Swedish hospitals: a Malmquist output index approach." In Charnes A, Cooper W, Lewin AY, Seiford LM (eds) Data Envelopment Analysis. Theory, Methodology and Applications. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994:253-272.

Source: Wagstaff A, Culyer AJ. Four decades of health economics through a bibliometric lens. Journal of Health Economics 2012;31:406-439