Nav: Home

Why everyone wants to help the sick -- but not the unemployed

May 26, 2016

New research from Aarhus BSS at Aarhus University explains why healthcare costs are running out of control, while costs to unemployment protection are kept in line. The answer is found deep in our psychology, where powerful intuitions lead us to view illness as the result of bad luck and worthy of help.

Illness and unemployment are two types of ordinary risks to which we are all exposed. But from a historical perspective, unemployment and illness represent two very different types of risks. Unemployment came about as a result of the industrialisation, while illness is something the human species has faced for millions of years. This difference is reflected in current-day political attitudes.

"People across countries are very positive towards the healthcare sector, but are not necessarily that inclined to give money to the unemployed. Why do people generally prefer helping the ill and not the unemployed?" This is the question posed by two professors in political science, Carsten Jensen and Michael Bang Petersen, from Aarhus University.

Using techniques to uncover people's implicit intuitions, the researchers explored the fundamental differences behind our attitudes towards unemployment benefits and healthcare. According to the researchers, the differences may be found in the evolutionary history of our species.

"For millions of years, a need for health care reflected accidents such as broken legs or random infections. Evolution could therefore have built our psychology to think about illnesses in this way, as something we have no control over. People everywhere seem to have this deep-seated intuition that ill people are unfortunate and deserve to be helped," Michael Bang Petersen explains.

Agreement across countries and political ideologies

Even countries like the US, which you would normally not associate with the term welfare state, healthcare costs are enormous. The researchers did research in both Denmark, the US and Japan and found that everywhere people intuitively believed that people who fall ill are unlucky, while unemployed people have brought it on themselves.

"Because we have this psychological tendency to regard people who are ill as unlucky, people's attitude towards the sick are extremely difficult to change," Carsten Jensen explains.

In modern societies, more people die from lifestyle diseases than from broken legs and infections, and there are considerable socio-economic differences in who will suffer from these lifestyle diseases. But we continue to think of illness as random accidents. This even applies across the political spectrum, where conservatives who normally oppose government spending think of ill people has unfortunate and deserving of care.

"The traditional attitudinal factors such as self-interest, access to information and political ideology do not really matter in the healthcare area," says Michael Bang Petersen and continues:

"When it comes to healthcare, everyone seem united in the belief that people who are ill are unlucky and need help. This means that the policies in the areas of health care and unemployment are very different, as we all more or less agree on the goal in healthcare, while we deeply disagree on whether or not unemployed people deserve help."

Pressure on the politicians

Increased healthcare spending is often explained by the supply of health - i.e. the costs of new technology and medicine. But the researchers from Aarhus University argue that when it comes to the rising costs of healthcare, we are also dealing with demand. Politicians find it hard not to accommodate people's demand for better healthcare, and no one wants to be seen as responsible for a health scandal.
-end-


Aarhus University

Related Health Care Articles:

Care management program reduced health care costs in Partners Pioneer ACO
Pesearchers at Partners HealthCare published a study showing that Partners Pioneer ACO not only reduces spending growth, but does this by reducing avoidable hospitalizations for patients with elevated but modifiable risks.
Health care leaders predict patients will lose under President Trump's health care plans
According to a newly released NEJM Catalyst Insights Report, health care executives and industry insiders expect patients -- more than any other stakeholder -- to be the big losers of any comprehensive health care plan from the Trump administration.
The Lancet: The weaponisation of health care: Using people's need for health care as a weapon of war over six years of Syrian conflict
Marking six years since the start of the Syrian conflict (15 March), a study in The Lancet provides new estimates for the number of medical personnel killed: 814 from March 2011 to February 2017.
In the January Health Affairs: Brazil's primary health care expansion
The January issue of Health Affairs includes a study that explores a much-discussed issue in global health: the role of governance in improving health, which is widely recognized as necessary but is difficult to tie to actual outcomes.
Advocacy and community health care models complement research and clinical care
Global lung cancer researchers and patient advocates today emphasized that new models of delivering care and communicating about cancer care play an important role in the fight against lung cancer.
About 1 million Texans gained health care coverage due to Affordable Care Act
Texas has experienced a roughly 6 percentage-point increase in health insurance coverage from the Affordable Care Act, according to new research by experts at Rice University and the Episcopal Health Foundation.
In India, training informal health-care providers improved quality of care
Training informal health-care providers in India improved the quality of health care they offered to patients in rural regions, a new study reports.
Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care, but disparities persist
The Affordable Care Act has substantially decreased the number of uninsured Americans and improved access to health care, though insurance affordability and disparities by geography, race/ethnicity, and income persist.
Integrated team-based care shows potential for improving health care quality, use and costs
Among adults enrolled in an integrated health care system, receipt of primary care at integrated team-based care practices compared with traditional practice management practices was associated with higher rates of some measures of quality of care, lower rates for some measures of acute care utilization, and lower actual payments received by the delivery system, according to a study appearing in the Aug.
Study finds quality of care in VA health care system compares well to other settings
The quality of health care provided to US military veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities compares favorably with the treatment and services delivered outside the VA.

Related Health Care Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...