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Why We Dont Take Care of Ourselves

Some interesting thoughts on why we don’t take care of ourselves as we get older.

Abstract

Many adults have an overly pessimistic view of old age because they fail to correctly predict their ability to hedonically adapt to old-age health related problems. A standard utility model where the marginal utility of health is higher at a lower level of health predicts that this overly pessimist view raises the incentive for healthy behavior. But this is at odds with empirical research that indicates that people with more negative aging stereotypes tend to adopt less healthy practices, transforming this negative view into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The aim of this note is to show that this fatalistic behavior can be explained through prospect theory by modelling this overly pessimistic view of old age as a failure to predict the change in the reference point due to hedonic adaptation. Given the diminishing sensitivity in the loss domain, people undervalue the future marginal value of health investment and may therefore underinvest in health as long as loss aversion is not too strong.

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