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The association between life course socioeconomic position and life satisfaction in different welfare states: European comparative study of individuals in early old age

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    Rights statement: © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-6
Number of pages6
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


BACKGROUND: whether socioeconomic position over the life course influences the wellbeing of older people similarly in different societies is not known.

OBJECTIVE: to investigate the magnitude of socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction among individuals in early old age and the influence of the welfare state regime on the associations. Design: comparative study using data from Wave 2 and SHARELIFE, the retrospective Wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), collected during 2006-07 and 2008-09, respectively.

SETTING: thirteen European countries representing four welfare regimes (Southern, Scandinavian, Post-communist and Bismarckian).

SUBJECTS: a total of 17,697 individuals aged 50-75 years.

METHODS: slope indices of inequality (SIIs) were calculated for the association between life course socioeconomic position (measured by the number of books in childhood, education level and current wealth) and life satisfaction. Single level linear regression models stratified by welfare regime and multilevel regression models, containing interaction terms between socioeconomic position and welfare regime type, were calculated.

RESULTS: socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction were present in all welfare regimes. Educational inequalities in life satisfaction were narrowest in Scandinavian and Bismarckian regimes among both genders. Post-communist and Southern countries experienced both lower life satisfaction and larger socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction, using most measures of socioeconomic position. Current wealth was associated with large inequalities in life satisfaction across all regimes.

CONCLUSIONS: Scandinavian and Bismarckian countries exhibited narrower socioeconomic inequalities in life satisfaction. This suggests that more generous welfare states help to produce a more equitable distribution of wellbeing among older people.

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