Behavioral Economics and Health: Nudging for our own good

Hellmuth, Kerry Ellen (2018) Behavioral Economics and Health: Nudging for our own good. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Each of us is made up of the decisions that we make. The rich tapestry of our lives is constructed from the hundreds of thousands of decisions that have led us to this very moment. If each of us were endowed with perfect rationality, our optimal decision-making qualities might lead us down similar paths. But here we are, instead each of us on unique and sometime bumpy rides accentuated by our perfectly irrational choices. The goal of my research is to make sense of our faulty decision making in areas related to personal health by applying insights from the field of behavioral economics. I am not the only one searching for answers. It's an exciting time to be a behavioral economist in light of the relatively recent birth of the subfield, as a splinter off of the traditional economics cutting block. It is a moment of prolific research in a thriving field of economists seeking to understand how exactly we err in the decision-making process, and what precisely can be done to help us err less. The timing could not be better for addressing poor decision-making in the health field. Behavioral factors play a starring role in today's burgeoning health crises, considering that smoking and tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, excessive alcohol use, and medical treatment noncompliance contribute to many of today's most prevalent health problems. In this doctoral thesis, I consider first and foremost the foundations of behavioral economics and its arrival from notions of bounded rationality and Prospect Theory, and what tools it offers to address pressing health issues. In the first chapter, I also consider the innovations in applications of behavioral economics to the most persistent health issues. In the following chapters, I offer new research (performed in collaboration with my coauthors) that applies concepts of behavioral economics to enhance decision making in two contexts. The role of information provision and quality is considered in light of parental decision making in the setting of childhood vaccines. Then I present the results of HealthyMe, an intensive collaborative effort involving experimental testing of an intervention to encourage active travel by foot and on bicycle using participants' cellphone to both record active travel and deliver nudge and feedback messages through a specially developed cellphone app.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Economics and Management (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
PhD Cycle:29
Subjects:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche > SECS-P/01 ECONOMIA POLITICA
Repository Staff approval on:18 Oct 2018 10:34

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