OBJECTIVE: We sought to examine differences in valuation of health by individuals from different ethnic backgrounds and between patients and community members.
RESEARCH DESIGN: We surveyed 193 community members identified by random-digit dialing (ie, 64 white, 65 black, and 64 Hispanic) and 198 patients with osteoarthritis (OA), 66 per ethnic group, drawn sequentially from clinic lists of an outpatient institution.
MEASURES: Participants were interviewed and asked to rate 2 scenarios describing arthritis (mild and severe) using visual analog scale (VAS), standard gamble (SG), and time trade-off (TTO). Differences were adjusted for cohort, age, gender, and education.
RESULTS: Members of the public had higher preference scores for the 2 health states than patients (SG severe state: 0.77 public, 0.66 patients; SG mild state: 0.90 public, 0.84 patients). The difference score between the mild and severe states was smaller for black than white subjects (P < 0.001) by SG and TTO. Scores for Hispanics and whites did not differ. Preference scores increased with age (SG, TTO).
CONCLUSIONS: Significant differences were observed in the valuation of health between members of the public and patients, among ethnic groups, and in relation to educational status and age, with the difference between utilities of health states being a more efficient measure of preference than the utility of a single state. Utilities elicited through valuation of hypothetical health scenarios are dependent on sociodemographic traits, experience of disease, and method used. These findings suggest that utilities cannot be used interchangeably across populations, with implications for economic analyses.