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Assessments of life expectancy among Durban youth discussed at seminar

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The relationship between hope and subjective assessments of life expectancy among a group of young people in Durban were discussed during a public seminar by micro-economist, Dr Gerard Boyce.

 Dr Gerard Boyce
Dr Gerard Boyce

The relationship between hope and subjective assessments of life expectancy among a group of young people in Durban were discussed during a public seminar by micro-economist, Dr Gerard Boyce.

Hosted by the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS), Boyce presented his findings from a survey of young people in Durban.

Boyce, who holds a PhD from UKZN in the field of Behavioural Economics, explored the relationship between the future-oriented concept of hope and subjective survival probabilities among a sample of about 650 Grade 11 pupils from six schools in Durban. 

Respondents’ perceptions of the ‘social clock’, broadly-held societal beliefs about the various stages into which an individual’s life can be divided and the culturally or socially appropriate times or ages by which certain milestones are expected to have occurred, was also explored.

‘Subjective life expectancy has been found to influence a number of decisions, such as savings behaviour and smoking, which have significant economic impacts,' said Boyce. 'It has been found to be predictive of actual survival even after controlling for (objectively measured) health status.’ 

He identified that among young people, subjective assessments of life expectancy have been associated with outcomes such as adolescent delinquency and school adjustment.

Boyce noted that several empirical studies conducted mainly in developed country settings had investigated the relationship between assessments of long-term survival and covariates such as gender, age, health status or socioeconomic status.


'Studies find that the relationship between these variables and subjective probabilities of survival are generally consistent with the relationships between these covariates and objectively estimated survival probabilities.

‘Generally, however, few empirical studies have investigated the possible relationship between subjective survival probabilities and psychological perspectives even though the role that psychological perspectives could play in mediating this relationship had been recognised,’ he explained. Through his study, Boyce attempted to address this gap.


* GERARD BOYCE is a micro-economist who holds a PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the area of Behavioural Economics. He harbours a wide variety of professional interests, ranging from the effect of psychosocial variables such as hope and perceptions of racial hierarchy on economic attitudes to the inter-relationship between environmental factors and outlook/future orientation.

Gerard worked as a social science researcher and health economist at the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) He gained extensive experience in undertaking primary and secondary research through his involvement in a range of projects that were commissioned by provincial and national government departments and several multilateral organisations.

In particular, he was engaged in projects which sought to estimate the costs and evaluate the cost effectiveness of a range of social interventions. He firmly believes that applied social science research, and academic enterprise and the tools of academic inquiry in general, can be used to gain insights which could inform policies and interventions which are better able to foster sustainable development and have a meaningful societal impact.

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Words by Melissa Mungroo, Pictures by Shivani Durgiah

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