Health, income, and the preston curve: A long view Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2023

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 10


  • 101212


  • 48

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1570-677X

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-6130


  • Well-being is increasingly viewed as a multidimensional phenomenon, of which income is only one facet. In this paper I focus on another one, health, and look at its synthetic measure, life expectancy at birth, and its relationship with per capita income. International trends of life expectancy and per capita GDP differed during the past 150 years. Life expectancy gains depended on economic growth but also on the advancement in medical knowledge. The pace and breadth of the health transitions drove life expectancy aggregate tendencies and distribution. The new results confirm the relationship between life expectancy and per capita income and its outward shift over time as put forward by Samuel Preston. However, the association between nonlinearly transformed life expectancy and the log of per capita income does not flatten out over time, but becomes convex suggesting more than proportional increases in life expectancy at higher per capita income levels.


  • Economics
  • History
  • Politics
  • Sociology
  • Statistics


  • health transition; inequality; life expectancy; per capita income; preston curve; well-being