Health and wellbeing spillovers of a partner’s cancer diagnosis

Major health shocks can have far-reaching implications for the welfare of an individual’s support and emotional network. This paper investigates both long-term and short-term spillover effects of a major non-communicable health shock, namely a cancer diagnosis (CD), on the health and well-being of an individual’s partner. We rely on data from a longitudinal sample of individuals over fifty from 19 European countries. Our estimates provide economically relevant evidence of the spillovers of a CD on the partner’s mental health and well-being. We document a robust and time persisting negative relationship between a partner’s CD and several measures of well-being, which is not driven by changes in health behaviors. These findings suggest that focusing solely on the individual economic impact of a CD will likely underestimate its long-term welfare effects unless the external effects on the emotional support network are considered.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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