Health and income across the life cycle and generations in Europe

An age-cohort decomposition applied to panel data identifies how the mean, overall inequality and income-related inequality of self-assessed health evolve over the life cycle and differ across generations in 11 EU countries. There is a moderate and steady decline in mean health until the age of 70 or so and a steep acceleration in the rate of health deteriorationbeyond that age. In southern European countries and in Ireland, which have experienced the greatest changes in economic and social development, the average health of younger generations is significantly better than that of older generations. This is not observed in the northern European countries. In almost all countries, health is more dispersed among older generations indicating that Europe has experienced a reduction in overall health inequalityover time. Although there is no consistent evidence that health inequality increases as a given cohort ages, this is true in the three largest countries – Britain, France and Germany. In theformer two countries and the Netherlands, at least for males, the income gradient in health peaks around retirement age, as has been found for the US, but this pattern is not observed in the other countries. In most European countries, unlike the US, there is no evidence that income-related health inequality is greater among younger than older generations.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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