29 April 2015

How population health improvements influence macroeconomic development

Casper Worm Hansen engage in research on health economics from different angles. Casper explains: "In one stream of research, I have studied how the breakthrough of “big medicine” in the middle of the 20th century (e.g., antibiotics), which caused a notable increase in life expectancy, influenced various measures of economic development. These studies indicate that the rise in life expectancy, in the second-half of the 20th century, had positive effects on human-capital formation and population size, while there was (at best) no effect on income. Accordingly, this evidence suggests that health inequality is not the obvious candidate in explaining why some nations are rich, whereas others are so very poor. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the introduction modern medicine is likely to have had tremendous positive effect on human welfare.

A second stream of ongoing research examines the effects on early-life mortality and fertility of the introduction of smallpox vaccination in Sweden in the first half of the 19th century. In 1798, Edward Jenner published results describing the method of vaccination against smallpox. A few years after Jenner’s discovery, vaccination reached Sweden and was first mentioned on December 7th, 1801 by the Medical Board of Sweden. The results of this investigation show that the introduction of the vaccination method in Sweden caused long-lasting declines in infant mortality and fertility.

A third stream of my current research exploits the fourth stage of the epidemiological transition, i.e. the unexpected decline of deaths from heart attack and stroke in the 1970s as a large positive health shock that affected predominantly old age mortality. Evidence from the US suggests that this episode – the so-called cardiovascular revolution – led to an increase in adult life expectancy and higher education enrollment."

Contact: Casper Worm Hansen