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Health and healthcare

There are strong inter-relationships between health and the education system, family formation, the labour market, welfare policy, and health and social care services. This means that health is often both an important input and an outcome of interest. For example, poor health may limit employment opportunities or result in job loss, but unemployment may itself lead to deteriorations in health. Understanding the drivers of poor health is therefore crucial for the design of a large range of public policies.

IFS research has made important contributions to the understanding of many of the determinants of health across the life-cycle. Our work on consumer behaviour considers how choice influences determinants of health outcomes, for instance, looking at the relationship between calories and body weight over time. Research on health and the labour market has examined relationships between health and policies directed towards employment, welfare payments and retirement. We have substantial programmes of work on health outcomes at either end of life-cycle, in children, where long term health may be more malleable and poor health can have long run consequences, and in old age, where health typically declines. IFS is a co-investigator on the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, contributing to the design of the survey and providing the first reports on the findings from each wave.  

The health and social care system is a crucial input into individual health, and spending on this care accounts for a large and growing share of overall public spending. Research on the health and social care system includes recent trends in expenditure, and evidence on the impact of demand pressure on patient outcomes. We also examine the impact of past NHS reforms, such as measures to increase choice and the use of private or independent sector providers. Research on the NHS and Social Care workforce has included the responsiveness of nurse labour supply to wages, and characteristics of the GP workforce. Cross-country work has examined patterns of medical spending, and the costs of caring for those at the end of life.

As part of their research in this area, IFS researchers sometimes make use of administrative records.This includes the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and ONS mortality records. Further detail on these data, and how they are used together, can be found here.

Selected highlights

On 5 July this year the NHS will be 70. In all its 70 years it has rarely been far from the headlines. It has been through more than its fair share of reforms, crises and funding ups and downs. Over that period, the amount we spend on it has risen inexorably. Yet, today, concerns about the adequacy ...
Journal article
The authors use detailed health care data for the period 2009–11 from nine countries to measure the composition and magnitude of medical spending in the three years before death.
Video clip
Why has obesity risen despite us eating less? Rachel Griffith and Pierre Dubois talk about her work, which showed how the amount of exercise we get from modern life has played a massive role.
In this project we will investigate the relationship between the strength of community ties and the health outcomes of individuals who migrated to England from the Punjab and their children.
Journal article
This paper uses administrative National Health Service hospital records to examine key features of public hospital spending in England.
This report is the sixth wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a survey of people aged 50 and over in England.


Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or

Elaine Kelly
Senior Research Economist
Martin O'Connell
International Research Fellow
Kate Smith
Associate Director
George Stoye
Associate Director
Ben Zaranko
Senior Research Economist