Poverty, Income, and Unemployment as Determinants of Life Expectancy: Empirical Evidence from Panel Data of Thirteen Malaysian States
Background: The primary indicator of public health, which all nations aim to prolong, is life expectancy at birth. Uncovering its socioeconomic determinants is key to extending life expectancy. This study examined the determinants of life expectancy in Malaysia.
Methods: This observational study employs secondary data from various official sources of 12 states and one federal territory in Malaysia (2002-2014). Panel data of 78 observations (13 cross-sections at six points in time) were used in multivariate, fixed-effect, regressions to estimate the effects of socioeconomic variables on life expectancy at birth for male, female and both-gender.
Results: Poverty and income significantly determine female, male, and total life expectancies. Unemployment significantly determines female and total life expectancies, but not male. Income inequality and public spending on health (as a percentage of total health spending) do not significantly determine life expectancy. The coefficients of the multivariate regressions suggest that a 1% reduction in poverty, 1% reduction in unemployment, and around USD 23.20 increase in household monthly income prolong total life expectancy at birth by 17.9, 72.0, and 16.3 d, respectively. The magnitudes of the effects of the socioeconomic variables on life expectancy vary somewhat by gender.
Conclusion: Life expectancy in Malaysia is higher than the world average and higher than that in some developing countries in the region. However, it is far lower than the advanced world. Reducing poverty and unemployment and increasing income are three effective channels to enhance longevity.
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