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Three Essays on Health, Risk and Behavior

Health-related decisions could be explained by a variety of factors, ranging from the perception of the risk the activity involves to the knowledge of the long-term effects of the decision. An individual deciding to eat unhealthy or not to exercise could face health problems in the long-run. Individuals with health issues have been found to be more risk averse when it comes to financial decisions, such as portfolio allocation. Financial incentives to engage in healthier behaviors have been successful but short-lived. Prior research leaves many questions such as: What are the factors that explain why an individual decides to engage in healthy or unhealthy behaviors? Are risk preferences a determinant in the decision to seek treatment for an illness? Do beliefs about the outcome of unhealthy and healthy decisions play a role? This dissertation aims at investigating the following questions: How do social aspects of risk impact health-related decisions? And, more broadly, what is the relationship between health, risk preferences and perception and behavior? I focus on three main applications: flu vaccinations, asthma in children and the impact of chronic illnesses (and other joint risks) in risky decisions. This dissertation investigates different ways in which risk, health and behavior interact with each other. I focus on three health-related applications: flu vaccines, asthma and how health influences individual risk preferences. The findings of these three chapters are intended to contribute to the discussion of how health impacts behavior and the perception of risk. I also analyze the effect of different sources of endogeneity, such as the beliefs about the flu vaccine and the severity of an influenza episode, beliefs about the severity of asthma or the effectiveness of treatments to tackle an asthma episode. This research will help policy makers better understand how risk perceptions about the outcomes of different health-related behaviors. I aim at continuing the conversation about which would be the best way to incentivize healthy behaviors and modify negative views of treatments to deal with chronic illnesses.