Childhood and adulthood circumstances predicting affective suffering and motivation among older adults: a comparative study of European welfare systems

  • Georgia VerropoulouEmail author
  • Eleni Serafetinidou
Original Investigation


The aims of the study are, first, to examine the effect of childhood and adulthood predictors on affective suffering and motivational symptoms among older adults in Europe and, second, to assess differentials across European welfare systems. The mediating role of adulthood circumstances is also explored. Data are derived from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) waves 2 (cross-sectional material) and 3 (retrospective information). The sample includes 23,050 respondents aged 50 +. The EUROD subscales were obtained using factor analysis; scores were transformed to binary constructs; logistic regression models were used to identify predictors; mediation was assessed employing a decomposition technique. Prevalence of both subscales is higher in Southern and Central/Eastern Europe and lower in Nordic countries, which are characterised by more equitable and generous welfare provisions. Though health, childhood socioeconomic status and childhood adversity are significant for both subscales, there are also differences; female gender, adulthood socioeconomic status and stress are associated with affective suffering, whereas age and educational attainment are of greater consequence for motivational symptoms. These findings are quite consistent across regions, indicating that the subscales represent different aspects of depression. By contrast, childhood circumstances are attenuated differentially by adulthood factors across Europe. Nevertheless, important mediating circumstances are stress for affective suffering and poor health for motivational symptoms. The importance of childhood circumstances in all aspects of later life mental health highlights the need for policy interventions across welfare systems, which should target vulnerable groups early in life.


Depression Affective suffering Motivation European welfare systems Decomposition method 



This paper uses data from SHARE waves 2 and 3 (SHARELIFE) (DOIs:,, see Börsch-Supan et al. (2013) for methodological details. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and FP7 (SHARE-PREP: N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: N°227822, SHARE M4: N°261982). Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C) and various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see


Regarding the second author, this research has been financially supported by General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) and the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) (Scholarship Code:991).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Statistics and Insurance ScienceUniversity of PiraeusPiraeusGreece
  2. 2.Centre for Longitudinal StudiesUCL Institute of EducationLondonUK

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