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Healthy Ageing and Social Capital

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Promoting Social Participation for Healthy Ageing: a counterfactual analysis from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)

Promoting social participation of the older population (e.g. membership in voluntary associations) is often seen as a promising strategy for ‘healthy ageing’ in Europe. Although a growing body of academic literature challenges the idea that the link between social participation and health is well established, some statistical evidence suggests that for older people a robust positive relationship may exist. One reason could be that aged people have more time to take part in social activities (due to retirement, fewer familial constraints, etc); so that such involvement in voluntary associations contributes to maintaining network size for social and emotional support and preserves individuals’ cognitive capacities. Dr Sirven uses SHARE data for respondents aged fifty and over in 2004 in eleven European countries to test these hypotheses by evaluating the contribution of social participation to self-reported health (SRH). The analysis reveals that social participation contributes by three percentage points to the increase in the share of individuals reporting good or very good health on average. Higher rates of social participation could improve health status and reduce health inequalities within the whole sample and within every country. Results suggest that ‘healthy ageing’ policies based on social participation promotion may be beneficial for the aged population in Europe.


Nicolas Sirven is a research fellow in health economics at IRDES (Research Institute for Health Economics) in Paris, France. He is the Coordinator of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). He is also a research associate at the CSC , St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. His research interests include microeconometrics, poverty, health and social issues in economics. Dr Sirven has a PhD (Economics) from the University of Bordeaux, France, on the topic of Social Capital and Development. He has published in journals such as the ‘Journal of Development Studies, ‘Journal of Environment and Development’ and ‘Social Science and Medicine’.

This talk is part of the Workshop on Poverty and Development series.

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