Issue Brief: A Review of the Scientific Literature on the Value of Health | August 2021


There exists a large scientific literature on the value of improved health and how to incorporate that value into policy and decision making where activities impact health outcomes. The purpose of this policy brief is to review literature on the value of health in terms of a Value of a Statistical Life Year (VSLY). It discusses the range and average findings in the literature and how those have changed over time and with demographics such as socioeconomic status and age. We find that the median VSLY estimate based on academic papers is $512,422, and the median based on Meta-Analyses is $529,043. The median estimate for a VSLY used by U.S. governments agencies is $580,000 or about 10 percent larger than estimates in meta-analysis or 13 percent larger than estimates from other academic literature. Further, the academic literature has less variance than the meta-analysis reflected by 73 percent of studies between $450,000 and $650,000 versus 58 percent for meta-analysis, mainly due to the inclusion of international estimates and varying methodology in study inputs. Studies do find VSLY varies with age and has the same life cycle pattern as income and consumption, peaking at ages 50-55. We briefly conclude by discussing how common cost effectiveness thresholds that determine reimbursement for health care services and products by government bodies are significantly lower than VSLY values in scientific findings.

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Posted on

August 1, 2021

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