How Does Hip Replacement Affect Future Retirement Decisions?

January 7, 2011

Researchers plan to study the effects of hip replacement therapy on the employment and retirement decisions of older adults.

The Institute for Health Technology Studies (InHealth) has awarded a grant of $240,000 to an international consortium of researchers, for a study that will assess the effects of hip replacement therapy on the employment and retirement decisions of older adults. Led by researchers at the Universita Bocconi (Milan), the consortium also includes investigators at the University of York (York, UK), and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health (Baltimore).

Hip replacement has been shown to improve quality of life by restoring physical mobility and reducing pain. However, there is evidence that a substantial number of patients who might benefit from the procedure do not receive it. Currently, between 200,000 and 300,000 hip replacement procedures are performed in the United States each year. But in 2002 US Health and Retirement Study, nearly 50% of retired respondents ages 55 to 64 reported arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions as the most significant reasons they could no longer work.

Early retirement triggered by such conditions is a contributing factor to the current financial crises of Europe's pension systems and of the US Social Security trust fund, which is projected to be exhausted by 2037. Under their grant from InHealth, the consortium's researchers aim to generate evidence on whether hip replacement can enable people with debilitating musculoskeletal conditions - including severe pain, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis - to continue working, consequently easing the financial pressure on these critical retirement systems.

"Industrialized nations around the world are trying to accommodate the mounting cost pressure that their aging populations place on limited public and healthcare resources," says Martyn Howgill, InHealth's executive directo, in a statement. "InHealth's grant will help assess the impact of reduced disabilities made possible by hip replacements on public and private retirement funds."

For the study, researchers will examine economic and sociodemographic factors that contribute to an individual's decision about receiving a hip replacement. Data sources for the study will include the English Longitudinal Study of Aging; the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe; and the US Health and Retirement Study. The three sources collect similar financial and other patient information, including current and prospective pension payments; employment; health conditions; physical health; healthcare interventions; and sociodemographic characteristics of individuals 50 years of age or older and their partners.

Investigators will then compare patients who received a hip replacement with those who did not, to determine how the treatment affected their employment and retirement decisions. Based on this comparative data, they will estimate the impact of hip replacement on national pension and Social Security systems, and the potential outcome of financial incentives - such as tax breaks - that could encourage working adults to delay retirement.

"We chose to study hip replacement in continental Europe, England, and the United States because of the country variations in incentives for retirement and the number of older adults still in the work force," says Ruben Mujica-Mota, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Center for Research in Healthcare Management at the Università Bocconi and lead investigator for the study. "We aim to contribute evidence to the growing debate in these countries over policy measures to reduce the gap between available tax revenues and the public expenditures required to provide Social Security and pension benefits."

The consortium conducting the study, "The Effect of Medical Devices on Health and Retirement: The Case of Hip Replacement Therapy," was drawn together by the European Health Technology Institute for Socio-Economic Research (Brussels), an independent research institute aimed at developing data and evidence on the social and economic value of medical technology and its impact on the economy and welfare of European countries.

Source: InHealth: The Institute for Health Technology Studies--Are there any other possible beneficial outcomes from the data to be obtained that were not already mentione? How else is the study important? Leave a comment.