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The Role of Education at Young and Older Ages in Explaining Health Inequalities in Europe

20th February 2014 1pm, Ladywell House, Edinburgh, 1/G/9

Albert Sabater, University of St Andrews and Benedetta Pongiglione, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The high-educated tend to have lower levels of morbidity and mortality than their low-educated counterparts. This positive association between education gradient and health outcomes is widely documented in literature. However, the age-specific pattern of this relationship remains largely unexplored in Europe. Within this context, two main different paths have been proposed. On the one hand, according to the 'status divergence model', the socioeconomic status (SES)-based gap increases with age. On the other hand, the 'status divergence/convergence model' supports that health inequalities between SES groups increase throughout middle age and decline at old ages. This study attempts to provide further empirical evidence of which model, if any, prevails in Europe, and which differences occur among European countries. For this purpose, we use a multiple cross-sectional analysis by age which covers 14 European countries and uses data from the fifth round of the European Social Survey (2010) and the fourth wave of the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2010). By comparing young and older age groups, we show that health inequalities peak at middle age and then decline at the old age. This 'divergent/convergent' path appears to be common among most European countries. Nonetheless, what differs from a country to another is the amplitude of education-based health gap. In Eastern Europe education affects health the most, while in Northern Europe there is no evidence of a significant effect of education on health.