Researchers from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway have found important differences between people’s values of their health states in Ireland compared with other countries. For example, the importance accorded to mental health in Ireland, particularly anxiety/depression, may not have been given the weight they deserved in the past. The findings were published in PharmacoEconomics, a leading health economics journal.

The research reports the preferences of people in Ireland for 3,125 different health states; essentially how they value one health state relative to another including perfect health and being dead. It differentiated health across five domains – mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression – and within each domain across five levels of severity ranging from no problem in that domain up to an inability to function or extreme problems in that domain.

The research provides a detailed description of the methods and the value set – that is the weights for the various health states. It demonstrates that in Ireland a greater weight is attached to anxiety/depression than to the other domains of health, followed by pain/discomfort. The work shows that not only do people in Ireland attach greater importance to anxiety/depression as a dimension of health than to other dimensions but that people in Ireland attach more importance to anxiety/depression than do people in other countries where similar studies have been undertaken.

The work involved a large scale national survey of 1,160 people living in Ireland conducted over two years. It was undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from NUI Galway, EuroQol Research Foundation in the Netherlands and the Office of Health Economics in London as well as colleagues from the Centre for Public Health in Queens University Belfast.

Professor Ciaran O’Neill, Adjunct Professor at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics in NUI Galway and lead author of the research, commented: “The study used an internationally recognised descriptive system (the EQ5D5L) and an internationally validated protocol to measure the relative importance attached to different health states in Ireland. The work provides valuable insights into those preferences and allows meaningful comparisons of preferences in Ireland with those in other countries, for example, we attach a much higher weight to mental health (anxiety/depression) at severe/extreme levels in Ireland than is the case in England or Germany. Importantly it allows researchers in Ireland to generate quality adjusted life year measures based on Irish preferences. Quality adjusted life year measures are an integral part of health technology assessments, a method used to assess the relative value for money of alternative uses of healthcare resources, such as those produced by the Health Information and Quality Authority or used by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics in Ireland.”

The research was supported by the Health Research Board under a Research Leadership award held by Professor Ciaran O’Neill (NUI Galway and QUB) as well as by the EuroQol Research Foundation.

To read the full study in PharmacoEconomics, visit: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40273-018-0690-x

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