Subjective poverty massively affects older people's health

by Claudia Roth

Being objectively low income leads to poor health and a shorter life. This much we already knew. But poverty can also be a matter of subjectively feeling poor. WZB economist Maja Adena and her colleague Michal Myck (DIW Berlin and the Center for Economic Analysis, CenEA, Szczecin) have substantiated how the subjective assessment of being poor affects the health of the 50+ age group. A study of Germany and 11 other European countries shows that older people who assess themselves as poor get sick more often (38 per cent) and suffer more from health setbacks (48 per cent) than those who do not. The probability of dying earlier is also much higher – around 40 per cent for men in this age group.

The researchers differentiated between three types of poverty: income poverty, wealth poverty and subjective poverty. In addition to feeling , wealth poverty also causes one's to deteriorate. Someone over 50 who possesses little wealth gets sick significantly more often and recovers from an illness more slowly than someone who is better off. Income, on the contrary, doesn't make any difference regarding the health of subjects in this age group.

The study reveals that poverty manifests itself in different ways. The researchers found little overlap between the various forms of poverty: only eight per cent of the respondents were poor according to all three definitions (income, wealth and self-assessment). The authors therefore recommend against relying on relative income alone to measure poverty. Broader definitions of poverty are needed to accurately describe old age and its consequences.

The researchers used a representative survey of the 50+ population in Europe, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). They analyzed data from a repeat survey (panel), conducted between 2006 and 2012. Health was linked to four factors: the subjective self-assessed health status, symptoms of , limitations in performing activities of daily living, and mortality.

More information: "Poverty and Transitions in Health" is available online: bibliothek.wzb.eu/pdf/2013/ii13-307.pdf

Provided by Berlin Social Science Center

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Child abuse rises with income inequality, study shows

Feb 11, 2014

As the Great Recession deepened and income inequality became more pronounced, county-by-county rates of child maltreatment – from sexual, physical and emotional abuse to traumatic brain injuries and death – worsened, ...

Falling short of the mark on maternal health in Pakistan

Jan 31, 2014

The clock is ticking on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals as the 2015 deadline approaches. For University of Alberta researcher Zubia Mumtaz, that raises a lot of questions about her area of research—matern ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

3 hours ago

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

4 hours ago

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

User comments