Social Comparison and Subjective Well‐Being: Does the Health of Others Matter?

Posted: 14 Dec 2011  

Vincenzo Carrieri

Università degli Studi della Calabria - Department of Economics and Statistics

Date Written: January 2012

Abstract

The importance of social comparison in shaping individual utility has been widely documented by subjective well‐being literature. So far, income and unemployment have been the main dimensions considered in social comparison. This paper aims to investigate whether subjective well‐being is influenced by inter‐personal comparison with respect to health. Thus, we study the effects of the health of others and relative health hypotheses on two measures of subjective well‐being: happiness and subjective health. Using data from the Italian Health Conditions survey, we show that a high incidence of chronic conditions and disability among reference groups negatively affects both happiness and subjective health. Such effects are stronger among people in the same condition. These results, robust to different econometric specifications and estimation techniques, suggest the presence of some sympathy in individual preferences with respect to health and reveal that other people's health status serves as a benchmark to assess one's own health condition.

Keywords: health condition, social comparison, subjective well‐being

JEL Classification: C21, D64, I31

Suggested Citation

Carrieri, Vincenzo, Social Comparison and Subjective Well‐Being: Does the Health of Others Matter? (January 2012). Bulletin of Economic Research, Vol. 64, Issue 1, pp. 31-55, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1972091 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8586.2011.00393.x

Vincenzo Carrieri (Contact Author)

Università degli Studi della Calabria - Department of Economics and Statistics ( email )

via Ponte Bucci
Arcavacata di Rende, Cosenza 87036
Italy

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