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Age-related preferences and age weighting health benefits

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Abstract

This paper deals with the relevance of age in the paradigm of quality adjusted life years (QALYs). The first section outlines two rationales for incorporating age weights into QALYs. One of them is based on efficiency concerns; and the other on equity concerns. Both of these are theoretical constructs. The main purpose of this paper is to examine the extent of published empirical support for such age weighting. The second section is a brief survey of nine empirical studies that elicited age-related preferences from the general public. Six of these quantified the strength of the preferences, and these are discussed in more detail in the third section. The analysis distinguishes three kinds of age-related preference: productivity ageism, utilitarian ageism and egalitarian ageism. The relationship between them and their relevance to the two different rationales for age weighting are then explored. It is concluded that, although there is strong prima facie evidence of public support for both types of age weighting, the empirical evidence to support any particular set of weights is at present weak.

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