Quantifying the Gap in Self-Rated Health for Transition Countries Over 1989–2014


Previous literature has shown substantially lower levels of self-reported health in transition countries. The current paper provides the most recent estimates of the size of the transition gap in self-rated health by using up to 241,698 observations from the World Values Survey and the European Values Study collected between 1989 and 2014. The estimated gap is in the range of 12.7–23.7 percentage points lower probability of reporting ‘Very Good’ or ‘Good’ self-rated health which indicates that the process of transition is far from completion at least based on a subjective evaluation of health.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The health satisfaction question is formulated as ‘Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your personal health?’.

  2. 2.

    Recent analysis by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) suggests the transition gap in happiness has ‘closed’ recently (EBRD 2016).

  3. 3.

    One of the caveats is that a transition gap in self-reported health is not the same as a gap in actual health which could be better measured by some objective indicators such as prevalence rates of certain chronic conditions, mortality from specific diseases etc. Unfortunately, such variables are not available at the individual level and the only proxy is life expectancy at a country level.

  4. 4.

    There could be more than one survey for some countries in three major transition periods of 1989–1997, 1998–2007, and 2008–2014. A detailed list of surveys by countries and years is available upon request.

  5. 5.

    The only exception is employment status, with ‘missing’ employment defined as base category (4188 observations or 1.73%). This is done to keep Poland and Argentina in the final balanced sample (with employment status missing for all respondents in 1997 and 2013 correspondingly).

  6. 6.

    The final sample includes the transition countries Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine. Non-transition are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

  7. 7.

    See for example, Platts (2015) who compares labour market status and self-rated health in the UK with Russia.

  8. 8.

    Trust and subjective income evaluation are shown to be important predictors of self-rated health in relation to the transition gap (i.e. Carlson 1998; d'Hombres et al. 2010; Goryakin et al. 2014 etc).

  9. 9.

    There are more females (29,238 or 12.1% of the final sample) than males (792 or 0.3%) who report "Housewife" as their employment status. However, each country has male respondents who report employment status "Housewife" (or rather "Househusband") so there should be no selection. For comparison there are 8968 (or 3.7%) of unemployed females and 9946 (or 4.1%) of unemployed males in the final sample. "Housewife" and "Unemployed" are mutually exclusive categories from WVS/EVS which distinguish respondents who are out of labor force (in addition to the retired and students) from those who are unemployed.

  10. 10.

    The author would like to thank an anonymous referee for this comment.


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Correspondence to Maksym Obrizan.

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Proof-reading of the article was provided by Proof-Reading-Service.com. The paper benefited from insightful suggestions made by the Editor Paul Wachtel, Volodymyr Vakhitov and an anonymous referee.



See Tables 6 and 7.

Table 6 Transition gap in linear probability model for ‘Very Good’ or ‘Good’ self-rated health with subjective income, measures of trust and countrywide characteristics
Table 7 Transition gap in linear probability model for ‘Very Good’ or ‘Good’ self-rated health with country dummies

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Obrizan, M. Quantifying the Gap in Self-Rated Health for Transition Countries Over 1989–2014. Comp Econ Stud 60, 388–409 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41294-018-0067-3

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  • Self-rated health
  • Transition countries
  • World Values Survey
  • European Values Study

JEL Classification

  • I15
  • N34
  • P46