Health, lifestyle, and labor-market outcomes: The case of Iceland

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Philip Robins, Committee Chair


Questions addressed. The following questions, as they relate to Iceland, are addressed in this thesis: (1) What is the effect of household income in the production of health? (2) What is the effect of body weight on employment? (3) What are the effects of probable alcohol misuse on labor-supply choices?Motivation. The Icelandic government takes financial responsibility for the medical-care demands of its citizens, to the point where non-governmental funding of such consumption has been negligible for several decades. The same holds true for disability-related income replacements, both long- and short term. This means that the Icelandic government has a growing stake in the health of its populace, especially regarding employability. It seems reasonable to start with body weight and alcohol misuse, as the Icelandic people are among the heaviest in Europe and have long been known for their intense drinking habits.Although important, increased productivity of the population is not the main motivation behind the centralized medical system in Iceland. It is rather determined by equalitarian views. However, it is largely unknown whether income-related inequalities in health have been effectively restrained. This is the main policy implication addressed by question one, stated above.Data. A Gallup-Iceland survey of 2,000 Icelanders between the ages of 20 and 80. The questionnaire focused on health and lifestyle.Topics and findings. The first issue addressed is the extent to which income influences an Icelander's health under the current political and social structure. Results reveal a statistically significant relationship between health and income in Iceland that is smaller than that reported for other countries. Furthermore, unexpected adverse effects of income on health are revealed at high-income levels.In the second analysis, the effects of obesity on employment are the focal point. Results show that weight has a negative and statistically significant effect on female employment only.The third topic addresses the effect of alcohol misuse on other labor-market outcomes. The data allow for an analysis of probable misuse of alcohol and labor-supply choices. Contrary to intuition, adverse effects of probable misuse of alcohol on employment status or hours worked are not confirmed within this sample.


Economics, General; Economics, Labor; Health Sciences, Public Health; Psychology, Industrial

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