Education, individual time preferences, and asymptomatic disease detection

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Asymptomatic conditions such as hypertension are generally hard to diagnose, absent routine medical examinations. This is especially problematic in developing countries, where most citizens do not engage in routine examinations due to limited economic resources. We study the roles of education and individual time preferences in asymptomatic disease detection and management. Using discrete choice models on a sample of 4209 hypertensive Indonesian adults surveyed between November 2007 and April 2008, we find that both education and individual time preferences play important roles. However, the effects are different for people in good health than they are for people in bad health. Education does not seem to matter for disease detection when respondents are in good general health, and its effects on disease management vary largely in magnitudes between these groups. In terms of disease detection, more educated respondents have a higher probability of being diagnosed, but only conditional on being in poor general health. Time preferences, on the other hand, matter for respondents in good general health, but the effect is not significant for those in bad health. More impatient respondents that are in good health have a higher probability of being under-diagnosed because they are more likely to forgo routine physicals. The findings point to two distinct channels through which education can affect health, and suggest that different types of policies need to be implemented, in order to reach the entire population. Traditional programs that stimulate education and improve the socio-economic status of individuals in developing countries are helpful, but they do not address the whole problem. Besides its more usual positive effects, education can also negatively affect the health of asymptomatic patients, because it reflects a higher opportunity cost of engaging in preventative health screenings. All rights reserved, Elsevier