Education and health in 22 European countries

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Sep;63(5):1344-51. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.043. Epub 2006 May 15.


This study investigates educational health inequalities in 22 European countries. Moreover, age and gender differences in the association between education and health are analysed. The study uses data from the European Social Survey 2003. Probability sampling from all private residents aged 15 years and older was applied in all countries. The European Social Survey includes 42,359 cases. Persons under age 25 were excluded to minimise the number of respondents whose education was not complete. Education was coded according to the International Standard Classification of Education. Self-rated health and functional limitations were used as health indicators. Results of multiple logistic regression analyses show that people with low education (lower secondary or less) have elevated risks of poor self-rated health and functional limitations. Inequalities are relatively small in Austria, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, large inequalities were found for Hungary, Poland, and Portugal. Analyses of age differences reveal that health effects of education are stronger at ages 25-55 than in the higher age groups. However, age differences in the education-health association vary between countries, sexes, and health indicators. In conclusion, our results confirm that educational inequalities in health are a generalised though not invariant phenomenon. Variations between countries, sexes and health indicators might be one explanation for the inconsistent results of other studies on age differences in the association between socioeconomic position and health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Educational Status
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors