Simulating Health Behavior – A Guide to Solving Complex Health System Problems with Agent-Based Simulation Modeling

Research Projects – Health

Building upon his popular research report titled “ Complexity Science—an introduction (and invitation) for actuaries”, with this project Alan Mills shows you how to use agent-based models to simulate the behaviors of agents in complex health systems.

His results are in three parts:

  1. Project report. The report defines and classifies “health behavior”, provides an overview of the facts and theories we know about health behavior (including facts and theories from behavioral economics), and shows how to use agent-based models to simulate health behavior. To read the report, click the following link:

    Simulating health behavior

  2. Agent-based models. Accompanying the report are three agent-based models that simulate health behavior. One simulates the behavior of physician networks, another simulates an employer's workplace wellness plan, and the third simulates adverse selection of health insurance in the Exchange environment of U.S. health reform. Chapter sixteen of the project report (Sample agent-based models) describes the models, shows you how to use them, and explains their results. Each model comes in two formats, an executable file that you can run immediately, and a file containing the model's computer code that will help you learn how to build agent-based models. To download a file, click on its link below (each file is zipped). Immediately following is a brief guide showing you how to download and open the models, with an accompanying video.

  3. Getting started with the agent-based models

    Watch Video: Updating the ‘Path’ environment variable for Java in Windows

    Executable Files Computer Code Files
    Physician network model Physician network model
    Workplace wellness model Workplace wellness model
    Adverse selection model Adverse selection model
  1. International Compendium of Health Behavior. The Compendium is a detailed catalog of what we know about health behavior. This version covers 30 common health behaviors. Accompanying the Compendium is a description of the literature search on which it was based, as well as its underlying Health Systems Ontology knowledgebase. To learn more about the knowledgebase, see Part II (Classification of agents and behavior) of the Compendium.

    International Compendium of Health Behavior
    Literature search results
    Health Systems Ontology knowledgebase

For their support of the project, the Health Section thanks the members of the Project Oversight Group:

Steve Cyboran
Bill Dimmock
Tom Getzen
Pat Kinney
Syed Mehmud
Evan Morgan
Sandee Schuster
John Stark
Steele Stewart

Steve Siegel, SOA Research Actuary
Barbara Scott, SOA Research Administrator

If you have questions or comments about this project, contact Steve Siegel, SOA Research Actuary


This report, its accompanying models, software tools and other associated documentation do not represent an official position, statement, or endorsement of the Society of Actuaries (SOA). The software has been developed for the benefit of actuaries FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY, although others may find it useful. The SOA and the author make no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the software as to quality, accuracy, reliability, suitability or otherwise, and DISCLAIM ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE. SOA and the author make no representation or warranty of non-infringement of proprietary rights of others with respect to the software. Further, the SOA and the author make no warranty that the software is free from errors, defects, worms, viruses or other elements or codes that manifest contaminating or destructive properties. The user assumes all risks relating to the use, outputs, analyses, results and performance of the software, regardless of whether the software is used alone or with other software. NEITHER THE SOA NOR THE AUTHOR SHALL BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE ARISING FROM THE USE OF, RELIANCE ON, OR THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SOFTWARE OR ITS ACCOMPANYING INSTRUCTIONS OR DOCUMENTATION. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE SOA OR THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING LOST PROFITS) EVEN IF APPRISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.