This project aims to foster understanding of cross-national differences in health and their causes, especially evaluating differences in health care systems, coverage and quality, health behaviors, life styles, income and wealth distributions and historical life circumstances. Understanding differences and causes requires comparable measurements of health which do not suffer from cross-national differences in data collection and
reporting styles. In this respect, analyses of blood samples are a gold standard of objective health measurement.
The project will extend earlier blood-based health comparisons between the US (based on the Health and Retirement Study, HRS) and the UK (based on the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, ELSA) to Continental Europe (based on the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe, SHARE). SHARE is a large population-representative panel study modelled after the HRS and ELSA. Health variables strictly harmonized across the three studies include self-reported health, ADLs and IADLs, physical measurements such as grip
strength, peak flow and chair stand, and a large battery of tests for cognition and mental health. SHARE has obtained very rich data on health care systems and life styles, on economic, work and social circumstances over the life course, and individual histories of health behaviors and health care interventions.
SHARE has also collected dried blood spot samples (DBSS) from about 27.000 respondents aged 50 and older in 13 Continental European countries. HRS has also collected DBSS in recent waves. While DBSS are not perfect substitutes for the venous blood (VB) samples obtained by ELSA and currently by HRS, much progress has recently been made in understanding how values obtained from DBSS correspond to VB values. We have
performed extensive validations which show a tight alignment between DBSS and VB values after correcting for systematic factors that occur during the laboratory and field processes.