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First of its kind study links life satisfaction with future healthcare use


Life dissatisfaction or unhappiness was significantly associated with being a high cost healthcare user in the future, according to a new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

In healthcare systems worldwide, high cost healthcare users disproportionately account for a majority of healthcare spending costs. High cost healthcare users are defined as those who ranked in the top five per cent according to total annual healthcare spending.

The study published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined more than 85,000 Ontario adults whose self-reported life satisfaction was measured at baseline. They were then followed-up for six years to determine if they had enough healthcare use to put them in the highest category of healthcare costs.  After accounting for other factors associated with high healthcare use, like demographic factors, co-morbidity and socioeconomic factors, the researchers found that those studied with the lowest level of life satisfaction were three times more likely to be in the highest category of healthcare costs compared to those who were satisfied with their life.

“There is an increasing focus on how happiness, and the lack of happiness, can influence future health outcomes. This is the first study that links satisfaction with life with future healthcare burden and costs,” says Dr. Vivek Goel, scientist emeritus at ICES and professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

The researchers found a trend that the happier one was with life, the lower the odds of needing more healthcare.

“Increasingly, we need to consider factors beyond the health system and even beyond health behaviours and socioeconomic factors that can influence rising healthcare costs,” says co-author Dr. Laura Rosella, adjunct scientist and site director at ICES UofT and assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

The researchers found that the top five per cent of high cost healthcare users used $27,636 average annual healthcare costs, compared to $3,393 and $386 in the top six to 50 per cent and the bottom 50 per cent respectively.

The findings support the health system impact of addressing broader well-being and happiness in the population.

“The relationship between life satisfaction and healthcare utilization: a longitudinal study” was published today in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Author block: Vivek Goel, Laura C Rosella, Longdi Fu and Amanda Alberga.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

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