Health disparities in Europe’s ageing population: the role of social network

Jenny Olofsson, Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Umeå University
Mojgan Padyab, Umeå University
Gunnar Malmberg, Umeå University

This study aims to investigate the impact of relative position in the educational hierarchy on poor self- rated health among elderly from 16 European countries. Further, the study determines whether educational position interacts with social network satisfaction regarding self-rated health (SRH). The study used cross-section of individual level data from the fourth wave of The Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) collected in 2011. The outcome is poor self-reported health (yes/no). Education is measured on the International Standard Classification of Education Scale (ISCED-97) ranged from 0(low) to 6(High). Satisfaction with social network is a composite score ranged from 0-10, based on respondents’ satisfaction with persons or relationships with named confidants. There were 54,751 individuals aged 50 years and over included in our study. All analyses are adjusted for age and stratified by gender. The results from bivariate analysis showed that for both males and females, lower education was associated with reporting poor SRH. For females, low satisfaction with social network was associated with poor SRH in all four country groups. However, low satisfaction with social network predicted poor SRH only among males in West and Central Europe as well as East Europe. The multivariable analysis- in which educational level and social network satisfaction are mutually adjusted- showed that belonging to lower educational level as well as low satisfaction with social network were associated with poor SRH in both genders from all country groups. However, we found an interaction effect between relative position in educational level and satisfaction with social network among male and female participants from North Europe. The health of individuals who are highly satisfied with their social network are more influenced by socioeconomic status in Northern Europe. Overall, this study highlights the significance of social network and socioeconomic gradients in health among elderly in Europe.

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 Presented in Session 60. Physical health of older adults