Because of the important role that survival expectations play in individual decision making, in this project we investigate the extent to which individual responses to survival probability questions are informative about actual mortality. In contrast to earlier studies, which relied on the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) of US individuals aged 50 and over, we combine household survey data on subjective survival probabilities with administrative data on actual mortality for Dutch respondents aged 25 and over. Our main finding is that in our sample, individual life expectancies (measured as subjective survival probabilities) do predict actual mortality even when we control for a large set of health indicators. Our results further suggest that, on average, women underestimate their remaining life duration, whereas men tend to predict their survival chances more realistically. Both sexes, however, tend to overestimate the age gradient in mortality risk and underestimate the health risks of smoking.
This project is conducted in cooperation with Adriaan Kalwij, Ph.D.(Utrecht University, The Netherlands). The results were presented at a number of conferences and published in European Journal of Population.