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Media statement

Treasury researchers probe data about health, wealth, work and retirement

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Corporate author: 
View point: 

The Treasury today published five working papers that look at health, wealth, work and retirement.

Three of the papers use data from the Survey of Family, Income and Employment to look at:

  1. The association between health and wealth.
  2. The indirect costs of ill health (i.e. not direct health care costs) on the economy.
  3. The relationship between health and participation in the work force.

The Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE) collects information about income levels, sources and changes; and the major influences on income such as employment and education experiences, household and family status and changes, demographic factors and health status.

A fourth paper, using  data from a longitudinal survey of Health, Work and Retirement conducted by researchers at Massey University, looks at the effects of health and wealth on the labour supply and retirement decisions of older New Zealanders.

The fifth paper uses data from the ongoing longitudinal study that started in Dunedin in 1972 and occupation data from the 1996 Election Study’s post-election nation-wide survey to look at income and occupational intergenerational mobility.

The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions in working papers published by the Treasury are strictly those of the authors. The working papers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Treasury or the Government.

The working papers are available from the Treasury website, here:

Appendix: brief summaries of the five papers:

The association between health and wealth

This paper analysis the relationship between net wealth and health. The results show that lower net wealth is associated with worse health over a range of differing measures of health. Physical and mental wellbeing were both found to be positively associated with net wealth.  Those who experienced a health failure had, on average, less wealth and worse self-rated health than those who did not. A series of chronic health conditions were also examined.  The presence of these conditions was associated with lower net wealth, although certain conditions were not always significant. 

The cost of ill health

In monetary terms the total cost of ill health is estimated to be $5.4 billion to $12.85 billion of
indirect costs (as opposed to direct health care expenditure costs). These costs arise from absenteeism, presenteeism, working less and not working at all due to ill health.

Relationship between health and labour force participation

Health status is significantly related to labour force participation. The presence of depression, manic depression, schizophrenia, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure is associated not only with lower participation but also with working fewer hours.

An improvement in health could lift labour force participation by 0.3% to 2.1%

The effects of health and wealth on the labour supply and retirement decisions of older New Zealanders
This study analyses the influence of health and wealth on the decision to participate in the labour force amongst older New Zealanders, aged 55 to 70. A significant reduction in labour force participation is associated with poorer health status. Wealth did not appear to be strongly related to the decision to retire.

Income and occupational intergenerational mobility in New Zealand

Parentage accounts for only a small proportion of variance in income or socio-economic status. There is weak evidence that New Zealand has higher intergenerational occupational mobility than Britain, and stronger evidence that New Zealand men have higher intergenerational occupational mobility than men in Germany.

Media contact:

Angus Barclay | Senior Communications Advisor
Tel: +64 4 917 6146
Last updated: 
Monday, 15 November 2010