The Role of Welfare States and Social Capital for Self-Rated Health among Older Europeans

  • Mikael RostilaEmail author
  • Mikael Nygård
  • Fredrica Nyqvist
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 11)


The greying of European societies has created a number of challenges to the welfare state, one being soaring expenditures for elderly care. Ways of promoting healthy and active ageing have therefore been called for, since this would not only enhance the wellbeing and independence of older adults, but also keep public expenditures in check. Levels of social spending on aging populations vary significantly between welfare states, filtering through pension systems, eldercare, and other types of support. The social-democratic countries have traditionally been characterised by universal and generous welfare systems that protect vulnerable groups in society, including the oldest. Several recent studies suggest that universalism also has positive implications on general levels of social capital in societies. Consequently, levels of social capital might vary systematically between countries, depending on the welfare state characteristics and the generosity of welfare systems. Although previous studies have shown that social capital is strongly related to health and wellbeing, most previous research in the field of social capital and health has so far focused on pure associations and ignored the significance of the broader institutional and political context for the creation and maintenance of social capital and its potential health consequences. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the role of welfare state features for levels of social capital among older adults in a European setting and to investigate whether levels of social capital contribute to higher levels of health in this group. For this purpose we analyse cross-national data from the European Social Survey (ESS) in 2010.


Social Capital Welfare State Social Contact Social Trust Regime Type 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikael Rostila
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mikael Nygård
    • 2
  • Fredrica Nyqvist
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Centre for Health Equity StudiesStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Study Programme in Social Sciences, Social PolicyÅbo Akademi UniversityVaasaFinland
  3. 3.Mental Health Promotion UnitNational Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)VaasaFinland

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