Volume 50 - Article 25 | Pages 667–732  

The importance of correcting for health-related survey non-response when estimating health expectancies: Evidence from The HUNT Study

By Fred Schroyen


Background: Most studies on health expectancies rely on self-reported health from surveys to measure the prevalence of disabilities or ill health in a population. At best, such studies only correct for sample selection based on a limited number of characteristics observed on the invitees.

Objective: Using longitudinal data from the Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT), I investigate the extent to which adjustments for a health-related sample selection affect the age profiles for the prevalence of functional impairment (FI) and the associated disability-free life expectancy (DFLE).

Methods: I estimate a probit model with sample selection under the identifying restriction that the strength of the health-related selection is of similar order to the strength of the selection on observable characteristics. I then compute the selection-adjusted FI prevalence rates and trace out the implications for DFLE using the Sullivan method.

Results: The analysis confirms that poor health measured at younger ages correlates with nonresponse behaviour in later waves of the survey, and that even for a conservative lower bound for the assumed degree of health-related selection, the estimated age profiles for DFLE lie systematically below the corresponding profiles when controlling only for selection on observable characteristics.

Conclusions: Health related non-response downwardly biases the raw sample prevalence rates for FI obtained from survey data and contributes to overestimating the expansion in DFLE.

Contribution: I present a statistical framework for taking health-related survey non-responses into account when estimating the prevalence rate of FI. The framework can be used to gauge the sensitivity of estimated (changes in) DFLE to health-related sample selection.

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