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Living conditions and life satisfaction of older Europeans living alone: a gender and cross-country analysis

  • JOËLLE GAYMU (a1) and SABINE SPRINGER (a1) (a2)

This study focuses on the influence of objective living conditions on the life satisfaction of older Europeans living alone from a gender and cross-national perspective. The data were drawn from the first wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which includes a single-item question for life satisfaction and a large set of health, family and socio-economic indicators. From a descriptive point of view, a lower proportion of women living alone declared themselves to be satisfied with life compared to men. When inequalities in living conditions were controlled for, the difference disappeared, but some determinants of life satisfaction differed for men and women and varied among countries. No limitations in daily activities, a high level of education, participation in leisure activities and an older age increased life satisfaction for both men and women living alone, but the existence of a child influenced only the life satisfaction of men, while income level (or home ownership) had an impact only for women. Moreover, a North–South gradient was clearly observable only for women living alone: all other things being equal, women had a higher probability of declaring themselves satisfied with life in northern European countries than in the South, and their determinants of life satisfaction were strongly linked to the socio-cultural context.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Joëlle Gaymu, Institut National d'Études Démographiques, 133, boulevard Davout, 75980, Paris, Cedex 20, France E-mail:
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