Do people desire to be healthier than other people? A short note on positional concerns for health

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Abstract

Contrary to traditional economic postulates, people do not only care about their absolute position but also about their relative position. However, empirical evidence on positional concerns in the context of health is scarce, despite its relevance for health care policy. This paper presents a first explorative study on positional concerns in the context of health. Using a ‘two-world' survey method, a convenience sample of 143 people chose between two options (having more in absolute terms or having more in relative terms) in several health and non-health domains. Our results for the non-health domains compare reasonably well to previous studies, with 22–47 % of respondents preferring the positional option. In the health domain, these percentages were significantly lower, indicating a stronger focus on absolute positions. The finding that positional concerns are less prominent in the health domain has important implications for health policy, for instance in balancing reduction of socio-economic inequalities and absolute health improvements.