Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Wealth, income, and health before and after retirement
  1. Siegfried Geyer1,
  2. Ove Spreckelsen1,
  3. Olaf von dem Knesebeck2
  1. 1Medical Sociology Unit, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany
  2. 2Department of Medical Sociology, Medical Faculty, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Siegfried Geyer, Medical Sociology Unit, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg- Str. 1, Hannover 30625, Germany; geyer.siegfried{at}


Background It was supposed that associations of wealth and health might be higher after retirement than in the economically active periods of life, but no comparisons were available. Most studies on wealth were based on net worth, a measure combining several elements of wealth into an index. We examined associations between different elements of wealth and health by comparing retired women and men with economically active ones.

Method Data were drawn from the German Socio-Economic Panel, a nationwide longitudinal survey project. Two waves (2002 and 2007) included indicators of wealth in addition to household income and education. Wealth was not depicted by an index. Instead, debts, property of life insurances, home ownership and assets were considered separately with their associations with self-rated health. Two data sets were used to examine whether the results were occasional, or whether they can be replicated.

Results Associations of income and education emerged in respondents in their active periods of life. In most cases indicators of wealth were associated with subjective health. In retired respondents home ownership was the only indicator yielding consistent associations with health, but their sizes turned out as rather moderate.

Conclusions Contrary to expectation, the associations of wealth and health were inconsistent in the retired study population. These results were obtained in a country with national pension schemes, and it has to be examined whether the findings can be generalised to other countries. The inconsistent findings of indicators of wealth are calling the utility of net worth into question.

  • Social Inequalities
  • Self-Rated Health
  • Socio-Economic

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.