01 October 2019 - 02 October 2019
Menaggio CO, Italy

Multidisciplinary perspectives on gender gaps in health

IIASA researcher Sonja Spitzer will discuss biases in self-reported physical and cognitive health at a conference on gender gaps in health organized by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

Hospital waiting room © Syda Productions| Dreamstime.com

Hospital waiting room © Syda Productions| Dreamstime.com

Gender inequality in health and survival continues to be one of the most important research areas of our times. To what extent do gender differences in health and survival vary across different stages of the life course, cohorts, geographic settings, and populations? What is the relative importance of biology, lifestyle behaviors, and social characteristics in explaining these gender inequalities? What is the role of women’s longer lives in explaining their worse health?

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) is organizing a conference guided by these and other questions about gender differences in health. The purpose of this conference is to bring together experts on sex and gender differences in survival and health from a range of disciplines, including biology, medicine, epidemiology, sociology, economics, demography, and psychology. The goal is to enhance each other’s understanding of the emerging research frontiers in our respective areas and facilitate collaborative relationships as we continue addressing these important inequalities. This conference will feature keynote speeches, oral presentations, and poster sessions, as well as formal and informal opportunities for group discussion and exchange.  

World Population Program researcher Sonja Spitzer will give a presentation entitled "Biases in self-reported physical and cognitive health of older Europeans." Spitzer is a predoctoral researcher at the World Population Program at IIASA. She is a population economist working on health, ageing, and economic wellbeing over the life course. She tackles questions related to healthy ageing as well as the economic impact of life events on households, examples are retirement or the birth of a child. She is particularly interested in issues related to survey data, for example, weighting adjustments or the evaluation of self-reported measures with objective information. For her research, she applies econometric as well as demographic methods. 

For detailed information please visit the event website.


Biases in self-reported physical and cognitive health of older Europeans

This paper explores which individual characteristics substantially bias self-reported physical and cognitive health status of older Europeans. The analysis utilises micro-data for 19 European countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe to compare performance-tested outcomes of mobility and memory with their self-reported equivalents. Relative importance analysis based on multinomial logistic regressions shows that the bias in self-reported health is mostly due to reporting heterogeneities between countries and age groups, whereas gender contributes little to the discrepancy. Concordance of mobility and cognition measures is highly related, however, differences in reporting behaviour due to education and cultural background have a larger impact on self-assessed memory than on self- assessed mobility. Southern as well as Central and Eastern Europeans are much more likely to misreport their physical and cognitive abilities than Northern and Western Europeans. Overall, our results suggest that comparisons of self-reported health between countries and age groups are prone to significant biases, whereas comparisons between genders are credible for most European countries. These findings are crucial given that self-assessed data are often the only information available to researchers and policymakers when asking health-related questions.

Print this page

Last edited: 27 May 2019

Research at the World Population Program

POPNET Newsletter


Hammer, B., Spitzer, S. , Vargha, L., & Istenič, T. (2020). The gender dimension of intergenerational transfers in Europe. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing 15, e100234. 10.1016/j.jeoa.2019.100234.

Spitzer, S. (2020). Biases in health expectancies due to educational differences in survey participation of older Europeans: It’s worth weighting for. The European Journal of Health Economics 21, 573-605. 10.1007/s10198-019-01152-0.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313