Inequalities in Old Age Wellbeing in Germany and Poland: The Role of Social Integration, Material Conditions and Regional Factors

Alina Schmitz , Technische Universität Dortmund

Background Material conditions and social integration are important predictors of wellbeing in old age. It can be expected that older individuals who reside in depopulating areas experience declines in wellbeing, as their property loses value, their social networks are shrinking and public infrastructure is lacking. We conduct comparative analyses of Germany and Poland, two countries that show significant differences with regard to the economic and social situation of the older population. We expect that regional depopulation is more detrimental to wellbeing in Poland, as older individuals rely more strongly on informal support and individual resources. Methods We apply multilevel regression models to investigate the interrelations between wellbeing (measured by life satisfaction), social integration, material conditions and regional factors. To that end, we combine micro-data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) with macro-data on regional characteristics (depopulation, infrastructure and economic development). Results Our preliminary analyses suggest that a substantial part of inequalities in old age wellbeing can be traced back to regional differences in the level of depopulation. Social integration and material conditions are important mediators of this association. Additionally, regional differences in infrastructure are important predictors of wellbeing – especially for older adults in need of financial and social support. Discussion Regional depopulation can be detrimental to wellbeing in later life due to material hardship, low social integration and lacking public infrastructure. In the next steps, we will investigate whether there are differences at the country level by comparing Germany and Poland.

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 Presented in Session 49. Health and Quality of Life of Older People