A new research group focusing on health and healthcare economics is being established at ECON MUNI. Jaroslav Groero, who joined the faculty in Spring of this year, is one of the people behind its creation. He will investigate, for example, how financial crises affect people's health.
What economic factors can affect our health?
Above all, how much we invest in our health and the health of our offspring in terms of a healthy lifestyle. People’s profession also plays an important role. For example, working in an office is less health-threatening than working in a coal mine. However, it also has its risks, which may not be apparent immediately, but can appear over a longer period of time. We should therefore bear in mind that we need to invest in our health continuously.
What exactly does investing in health mean?
Many factors may be involved in it. In general, I would call investing in health the decisions and behaviors that lead to better health outcomes over the long term, even at the cost of some discomfort. In practice, this means buying healthy and nutritious foods, taking in adequate calories, or spending more time on physical activity.
In your recent research, you were looking at how genes and the environment affect people's health. What did you discover?
That education serves as a buffer against a worse genetic makeup. Genetic predispositions for obesity increase the risk of cancer and heart attack. However, one additional year of education during adolescence reduces the influence of genes.
Does this mean that if one studies longer, one will be healthier?
This is likely, but the relationship between education and health is not always direct. In my research, I looked at an additional year of education during adolescence. However, these findings cannot be extended to other levels of education.
What kind of research will you be doing at ECON MUNI?
I will continue my research in the area of human capital, and in particular I will focus on health variables. Human capital is a set of characteristics that benefit people in life and help them live a successful and happy life. That includes health.
Do economic crises have an impact on people's health?
That is a question I would like to explore more in the future. The literature does not have a clear answer. Some research shows that health can improve during a crisis because people cut down on smoking, alcohol consumption, lose weight, start exercising and so on. However, other research articles describe how health can also deteriorate due to the stress of job loss or pay cuts. Some authors even show that economic crises can lead to increased consumption of drugs and cigarettes by mothers, which has a negative impact not only on themselves but also on their children.
A new research group is being established at ECON MUNI that will focus on health economics. Why do you think it is needed?
It will be the first such institution in the Czech Republic. Research into health and healthy ageing is vital for our well-being and for an effective health system that will ideally reduce the discomfort associated with ageing and also reduce premature mortality. Understanding the relationship between our behavior and health and life expectancy is key to living with dignity in the best possible conditions. However, this institute will also address many other topics, such as the costs associated with healthcare. We also plan to open a new study program focusing on health and healthcare economics.