Health economics

Shuai Chen, Jan van Ours, 24 July 2021

Same-sex marriage was legalised in the Netherlands in 2001. This column shows that this legislation improved the mental health of both married and non-married sexual minorities. It is likely to have improved societal tolerance of same-sex partnerships, impacting the discrimination experienced by sexual minorities.

Dan Zeltzer, Liran Einav, Joseph Rashba, Ran Balicer, 21 July 2021

The use of telemedicine rose sharply under the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the coming years we are likely to see more healthcare delivery that mixes in-person with remote care. But concerns remain over whether remote care might reduce care quality or increase costs. This column examines the effect of increased access to telemedicine on care cost and outcomes using data from Israel around the country’s first lockdown in March and April 2020. Access to telemedicine results in a slight increase in primary care use and no significant increase in overall costs. There is no evidence for decreased accuracy or increased likelihood of adverse events.

David M. Cutler, Edward Glaeser, 12 July 2021

Over 90,000 Americans died from opioids in the year ending November 2020, bringing the death total since 1999 to over 850,000. This column argues that rather than rising demand for opioids for relief from pain or despair, it is supply-side innovations in the legal and illegal drug markets that have been the main driver of the opioid epidemic. The opioid cycle is a cautionary tale about how technological innovation can go terribly awry, and calls for more collective scepticism about innovations that allegedly cleanse pleasure-inducing drugs of their addictive properties as well as stronger penalties for companies that mislead the public about the risks of their products.

Orkun Saka, Barry Eichengreen, Cevat Giray Aksoy, 09 July 2021

Although epidemics are frequently cited as inducing changes in economic behaviour and accelerating technological and behavioural trends, there may be important differences across socioeconomic groups in ability to utilise such new technologies. This column studies these issues in the context of fintech adoption and finds strong evidence of epidemic-induced changes in economic and financial behaviour, of differences in the extent of such shifts by more and less economically advantaged individuals, and of a role for IT infrastructure in spreading or limiting the benefits of technological alternatives.  The results highlight both the behavioural response to epidemics and the digital divide.

Hans Hvide, Julian Vedeler Johnsen, 07 July 2021

The mental health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are less well documented than its physical effects. This column examines newly released data on doctor’s appointments in Norway and finds evidence of a psychological health pandemic that took hold during the autumn of 2020. Earlier that summer, the number of consultations related to mental health issues resembled that of previous years. But during the autumn of 2020 this number grew substantially, a trend that continued through the winter months and warrants the attention of policymakers.

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