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Health Econ. 2012 Feb;21(2):127-44. doi: 10.1002/hec.1695. Epub 2010 Dec 19.

Inheritances, health and death.

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Department of Economics, Korea University, 5-1 Anamdong Seongbuk Gu, Seoul, South Korea.


We examine how wealth shocks, in the form of inheritances, affect the mortality rates, health status and health behaviors of older adults, using data from eight waves of the Health and Retirement Survey. Our main finding is that bequests do not have substantial effects on health, although improvements in quality-of-life are possible. This absence occurs despite increases in out-of-pocket spending on healthcare and in the utilization of medical services, especially discretionary and non-lifesaving types such as dental care. Nor can we find a convincing indication of changes in lifestyles that offset the benefits of increased medical care. Inheritances are associated with higher alcohol consumption, but with no change in smoking or exercise and a possible decrease in obesity.

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