Reduced mortality and increased life expectancy are common benefits of health programmes whose appraisal will sometimes require a value to be placed on 'life'. There are broadly three approaches to this valuation. The human capital approach assesses the value as the present value of expected future earnings. This has been widely discredited partly for its partial nature (effectively treating people as though they were carthorses) and partly because of the discrimination it implies against the very young, the old, females, chronic sick and so on. The second, the social decisions approach, infers values from decisions made in the public sector. The third approach enquires experimentally and via surveys about the value placed by individuals on reductions in the size of the risk of death they confront with respect to any particular hazard. This approach is based on people's preferences and is thus that which is most consistent with the economic concept of efficiency. It also directly approaches the matter in a context of uncertainty which is the characteristic practical context for most decisions.
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When over eighty years of age, the poet Bryant said that he had added more than ten years to his life by taking a simple exercise while dressing in the morning. Those who knew Bryant and the facts of his life never doubted the truth of this statement.