SHARESurvey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe

Contact details:

Dr. A.S. Kalwij
PO Box 80125
+31 30 253 9664

SHARE, the “Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe”, is a comparative pan-European survey aimed at better understanding the consequences of ageing for individuals and society, and forming a sound scientific basis for socioeconomic and health policy. SHARE uses strictly harmonised methods to collect data on the health, economic status and social integration of individuals aged 50 and over in 21 European countries. This set-up enables the users of SHARE to perform comparative analyses of the causes for, and the effects of, social, economic and health-related developments in the course of demographic change on an international scale.

SHARE is a research infrastructure for a broad set of users and not designed around specific hypotheses. It aims to answer key questions such as:
• Which causal pathways create the ubiquitous link between health and socio-economic status? How important are they? Can they be influenced by welfare policy? By medical and social prevention strategies? If so, how and when should interventions be placed optimally during the life course?
• What are the effects of a shift of retirement age in the wake of population aging? How much labour supply can and will be added? What will be the effects on health, cognition and social inclusion for different types of individuals with their specific work histories?
• How will intergenerational relationships change as Europe’s diverse societies age? What is the interplay between family help and state support when long-term care needs will increase due to higher dementia prevalence? How will bequests and inter vivos transfers react to cuts in pension benefits?
To address these research questions, the SHARE design includes four fundamental elements:
• SHARE reflects the cross-national variation in welfare policies in order to identify their effects. While some countries experience policy reforms during the SHARE time frame, additional variation is obtained by cross-national comparisons. Confounding effects are convincingly ruled out by a combination of time and country variation possible only in a panel of countries, such as SHARE. SHARE and the European diversity thereby create a huge research advantage over data from the U.S. The inclusion of the Dutch survey in the overall European design is indispensable for the cross-national comparisons, since the Netherlands is a society with a rapidly ageing population and important policy reforms.
• SHARE is longitudinal, i.e., the same persons should be observed multiple times as time passes by in order to understand their individual aging processes and to learn how the respondents adapt to the changing environment over time. The SHARE design consists of 10 waves of data with two years distance between them. This number has been chosen to cover the time until the peak cohorts of the baby-boom generation in the participating countries have retired, i.e. until 2024. Since the retirement of the baby boom will double the number of retirees per worker, it is essential to have SHARE in place to observe this historical process and its implications for European citizens.
• SHARE is multidisciplinary and allows studying the interactions between bio-medical factors on the one hand and socio-economic factors on the other hand. This is achieved by including very detailed modules on health, economic and social status (see section 4a).
• To maintain intercultural comparability, SHARE has adopted an emphasis on objective data collection: in the health domain, SHARE has introduced performance measures and collects dried blood spot samples; in the domain of economic status, income and pension wealth are validated by linkage to administrative data. What is unique in SHARE is the combination of objective health data with a very broad and detailed socio-economic background in a large probability sample of the general population.

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