Health and social services expenditures: associations with health outcomes

BMJ Qual Saf. 2011 Oct;20(10):826-31. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs.2010.048363. Epub 2011 Mar 29.


Objective: To examine variations in health service expenditures and social services expenditures across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and assess their association with five population-level health outcomes.

Design: A pooled, cross-sectional analysis using data from the 2009 release of the OECD Health Data 2009 Statistics and Indicators and OECD Social Expenditure Database.

Setting: OECD countries (n = 30) from 1995 to 2005.

Main outcomes: Life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low birth weight, maternal mortality and potential years of life lost.

Results: Health services expenditures adjusted for gross domestic product (GDP) per capita were significantly associated with better health outcomes in only two of five health indicators; social services expenditures adjusted for GDP were significantly associated with better health outcomes in three of five indicators. The ratio of social expenditures to health expenditures was significantly associated with better outcomes in infant mortality, life expectancy and increased potential life years lost, after adjusting for the level of health expenditures and GDP.

Conclusion: Attention to broader domains of social policy may be helpful in accomplishing improvements in health envisioned by advocates of healthcare reform.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gross Domestic Product / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Life Expectancy
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Social Work / economics*
  • Social Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vital Statistics*