Using EU-SILC data for the years 2006-2009, this study examines the existence of a socioeconomic gradient in health. More precisely, this work aims at understanding whether poverty (both objective and subjective) is associated with worse health conditions among the elderly living in European countries. From the policy makers point of view, it is crucial to understand the health consequences of objective poverty since it can be the focus of dedicated policies. However it may be the case that subjective (self-assessed) poverty better synthesizes the living conditions of the elderly as well as their worries, hence exerting a stronger effect on their health. The applied multilevel models confirm that the association between health and subjective poverty is statistically significant even in those countries where objective poverty does not exert a significant effect. Moreover, with the subjective indicator of poverty the economic gradient in health appears to be more pronounced. However the relationship between objective poverty and health substantially traces that between subjective poverty and health. This study shows that individual differences in material circumstances (objectively or subjectively defined) are associated with different health conditions in the elderly populations of all European countries, notwithstanding the existence of well-known cross-countries differences in terms of welfare regimes and average health of the elderly.
Keywords: Elderly, self-assessed health; growth curves; EU-SILC; social gradient in health.