Background: Continuous population aging has raised international policy interest in promoting active aging (AA). AA theoretical models have been defined from a biomedical or a psychosocial perspective. These models may be expanded including components suggested by lay individuals. This paper aims to study the correlates of AA in three European countries, namely, Spain, Poland, and Finland using four different definitions of AA.
Methods: The EU COURAGE in Europe project was a cross-sectional general adult population survey conducted in a representative sample of the noninstitutionalized population of Finland, Poland, and Spain. Participants (10,800) lived in the community. This analysis focuses on individuals aged 50 years old and over (7,987). Four definitions (two biomedical, one psychosocial, and a complete definition including biomedical, psychosocial, and external variables) of AA were analyzed.
Results: Differences in AA were found for country, age, education, and occupation. Finland scored consistently the highest in AA followed by Spain and Poland. Younger age was associated with higher AA. Higher education and occupation was associated with AA. Being married or cohabiting was associated with better AA compared to being widowed or separated in most definitions. Gender and urbanicity were not associated with AA, with few exceptions. Men scored higher in AA only in Spain, whereas there was no gender association in the other two countries. Being widowed was only associated with lower AA in Poland and not being married was associated with lower AA in Poland and Finland but not Spain.
Conclusions: Associations with education, marital status, and occupation suggest that these factors are the most important components of AA. These association patterns, however, seem to vary across the three countries. Actions to promote AA in these countries may be addressed at reducing inequalities in occupation and education or directly tackling the components of AA lacking in each country.