Investing preventive care and economic development in ageing societies: empirical evidences from OECD countries

Fuhmei Wang, Jung Der Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The proportion of the elderly aged 65 years old or above will reach 16% in 2050 worldwide. Early investment in effective prevention would generally reduce the morbidity, complication, functional disability, and mortality of most chronic illnesses and save resources in both healthcare and social services. This research aims to investigate how the optimal allocation of medical resources between prevention and treatment adds value to the population’s health as well as examine the interaction between ageing, health, and economic performance. Methods: This research undertakes ageing-health analyses by developing an economic growth model. Based on the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries’ experiences over the period from 2000 to 2017, this research further examines the hypothesis that an ageing society could increase demand for preventive and curative healthcare. Results: Theoretical analysis found that the prevention share for maximizing growth is the same as that for minimizing ill health and maximizing welfare; this share increases with treatment share and ageing ratios. Estimation results from OECD countries’ experiences indicate that when treatment share increases by 1%, the prevention demand increases by 0.036%. A one-percent increase in the ageing ratio yields a change in prevention share of 0.0368%. The optimal share of prevention health expenditure to GDP would be 1.175% when the prevalence rate of ill health isat 6.13%; a higher or lower share of prevention would be accompanied with a higher prevalence of ill health. For example, a zero and 1.358% preventive health expenditure would be associated with an 18.01% prevalence of ill health, while the current share of prevention of 0.237% is associated with a 10.26% prevalence of ill health. Conclusion: This study shows that appropriate prevention is associated with decreases in the prevalence rates of ill health, which in turn attains sustainable growth in productivity. Too much prevention, however, could lead to higher detection of new chronic diseases with mild severity, which would result in longer illness duration, and higher prevalence rates of ill health. With suitable allocation of medical resources, the economic growth rate will help to cancel out increases in healthcare spending for the elderly and for expenses needed for the improvement of the population’s health as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalHealth Economics Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


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