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Health and Health Care

Selected findings from SHARE First Results Books:

  • A vicious circle – bad health leads to social exclusion leads to bad health: The impact of health problems affecting social interaction – such as, e.g., hearing loss – on social inclusion can be enormous. Conversely, feelings of being left out as well as actual social isolation can become a source of depression. SHARE based findings now support the notion of social exclusion acting as a pathway through which hypoacusia may affect mental health.
  • Access to health insurance is fundamental: Inadequate access and the lack of insurance coverage are particularly often found in poorer countries with low healthcare expenditures as well as in countries with large income disparities. But there is also a clear socio-economic gradient in health insurance coverage and access to care within almost all countries, reinforcing social inequalities in health status.
  • Long-term care – a public task: In countries where the welfare state attends to the organization of long-term care, long-term care needs are generally better met than in countries where it is mainly the responsibility of the family. Unmet need for long-term care is, in turn, associated with material and social deprivation: The more deprived people are, the more they are in need for long-term care, and the more these needs remain unmet. Even in Central and Northern European countries where governments are involved in long term care, families remain essential in complementing the welfare state, including for the most severely deprived.
  • Southern Europe - greater longevity, despite illness: Although people in southern Europe live longer, Northern Europeans are healthier and richer. When looking at cross-country differences in general health, we find that the Danes, followed by the Swedes and Swiss, are the most satisfied: only 40 per cent believe that they are not in the very best of health, and the share of those who regard themselves as in poor or very bad health is even as low as ten per cent. Physical health problems are closely related to age throughout Europe. Disorders such as cataracts are experienced five times more often by the oldest-old, that is those aged 80 or over, than by people in the 50-59 age group. Women suffer from most complaints significantly more frequently than men. However, it is the 'stronger sex' which mainly suffers from potentially life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes or heart and lung diseases. Experts believe that one of the reasons for the greater health threats faced by men is their tendency to adopt riskier health behaviours, that is, smoking more and drinking more alcohol.
  • Geriatric care needs improvement: SHARE is the first survey that includes comparable information about out-of-pocket payments for health care expenditures as well as health services utilisationand the quality of health care for older persons. In many respects, there appears to be much room for improvement. For example, from a preventive perspective, there is a serious lack of geriatric assessments and screening tests.
  • Education keeps us fit: There are strong socio-economic disparities in physical health and health behaviours within all SHARE countries. For instance, compared to more highly educated elders, individuals with a lower formal education are 70 percent more likely to be physically inactive and 50 percent more likely to be obese. Everywhere, men are significantly more often overweight than women.
  • Education helps prevent cognitive impairment and depression: A strong relationship between health and socioeconomic status also holds for mental health. For instance, cross-country differences in cognitive function correspond closely to cross-country differences in education. Depression is more frequent among persons with low income or low wealth, particularly in the northern countries of Europe.

More SHARE Research Findings:

Life History and the Risk of Death

New study discusses how an individual's past influences their risk of an untimely death.

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Well-being of older migrants in Europe

Study compares subjective well-being of migrants and natives aged 50+.

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Little exercise is better than none

Preventing chronic diseases through minor physical activity more effective than previously assumed.

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Fight cognitive decline with Sudoku

Study shows how leisure activity can help to train your memory.

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Working under stressful conditions causes depressions in the long run

Researchers argue that health consequences of work stress should be analysed in a life-course perspective.

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Why do older people hit the bottle?


International study compares dangerous drinking habits of men and women across Europe.

>> Read more