Does freedom make a difference?

An empirical investigation of differences between subjective well-being and perceived capabilities amongst cancer patients


Perceived capabilities—a subjective operationalization of Sen’s concept of capability—and subjective well-being are increasingly regarded as relevant information about individual well-being to guide resources allocation in healthcare. Although they refer to different notions, both types of measures rely on self-reported information and little is known as to how they compare together empirically. The aim of this paper is to investigate differences between measures of subjective well-being and of perceived capabilities in terms of their correlation with dimensions of health-related quality of life using panel data concerning a sample of 293 breast cancer and melanoma patients. Regression analyses suggest that the measures capture quite different aspects of the patients’ welfare. Differences in the correlation with dimensions of health also seem consistent with the underlying notions to which these measures refer. However, our findings also suggest that future researches should aim at determining how measures of perceived capabilities may be influenced by individual personality traits.

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We are particularly thankful to comments from participants at the JESF (French Health Economics Conference), Marc Fleurbaey and two anonymous reviewers. Philippe Tessier benefited from a fellowship from La Ligue contre le cancer (French league against Cancer). Josselin Thuilliez benefited from a Fulbright grant and a Princeton fellowship at Princeton University.

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Tessier, P., Thuilliez, J. Does freedom make a difference?. Eur J Health Econ 19, 1189–1205 (2018).

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  • Subjective well-being
  • Capabilities
  • Health-related quality of life

JEL Classification

  • D63
  • I31