The association between individual time preferences and health maintenance habits.
CONTEXT: Encouraging healthy behaviors, including disease screening, exercise, and tobacco avoidance, has been a significant focus of clinical attention in recent decades. Little is known about the association between individual preferences with respect to time play and preventive health care use and healthy lifestyles. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether rates of these health behaviors are associated with latent time preferences. DESIGN: Interval regression analysis was used to impute individual level discount rates. The difference in means for the rates of health behaviors were assessed for high vs. low to moderate discounting groups using one-factor probit models. PARTICIPANTS: The 2004 wave of the Health and Retirement Survey included in a time preferences module (1,039 respondents aged 24 to 65 years). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of recent mammograms, breast exams, Pap smears, prostate exams, cholesterol testing, flu shots, and dental visits, and non-smoking status. RESULTS: Respondents in the upper 20th percentile of the distribution have an average imputed annual discount rate of 0.335 (33.5%). High discount rate status is found to have a negative marginal association on the probability that respondents had recent mammogram use (-15.1%; P = 0.001), Pap smear use (-8.3%; P = 0.049), prostate examination use (-20.4%; P =0.003), dental visits (-24.8%; P = 0.001), cholesterol testing (-12.4%; P = 0.001), flu shot usage (-11.1%; P = 0.005), rates of vigorous exercise (-15.1%; P = 0.001), nonsmoking status (-10.4%; P= 0.001), and undertook all measured health habits (-7%; P = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Differences in underlying preferences for the present over the future may be a substantial barrier for people's propensity to adopt healthy lifestyles.
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