Private and social time preference for health outcomes: A general population survey in Iran

Alireza Mahboub-Ahari, Abolghasem Pourreza, Ali Akbari Sari, Trevor A Sheldon, Maryam Moeeni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the recent increase in economic evaluations of health care programs in low and middle income countries, there is still a surprising gap in evidence on the appropriate discount rate and the discounting of health outcomes such as quality adjusted life years (QALYs). Our study aimed to calculate the implied time preference rate for health outcomes in Iran and its key determinants. Data were gathered from one family member from each of the 650 households randomly selected in Tehran. The respondents' private and social preferences for health outcomes were calculated using the time trade-off (TTO) technique based on the discounted utility model. We investigated the main assumptions of the discounted utility model through equality of mean comparison, and the association between private time preference and key socio-economic determinants using multilevel regression analysis. The mean and median implied rates were 5.8% and 4.9% for private time preference and 25.6% and 20% for social time preference respectively. Our study confirmed that magnitude, framing and time effects have a significant impact on implied discount rates, which means that the conventional discounted utility model's main assumptions are violated in the Iranian general population. Other models of discounting which apply lower rates for far health outcomes might provide a more sensible solution to discounting health interventions with long-term impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211545
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Health Priorities/statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Iran
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


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