Ageing and Society

Socio-economic status differences in older people's use of informal and formal help: a comparison of four European countries

a1 Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
a2 Institute of Gerontology, King's College London, UK.
a3 Department of Economic and Social Sciences, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy.
a4 Population and Family Study Centre, Brussels, Belgium.

Article author query
broese van groenou m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
glaser k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
tomassini c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jacobs t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This study investigates the variations by older people's socio-economic status (SES) (i.e. educational level and social class) in the use of informal and formal help from outside the household in Great Britain, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands. In all these countries, it was older people in low SES groups who mostly used such help. Multinomial logistic regression analyses showed that, in each country and for both types of help, there were SES gradients in the utilisation of both formal and informal care, and that differences in age, health and marital status largely accounted for the former but not the latter. Cross-national differences in the use of both informal and formal help remained when variations in sex, age, SES, health, marital status, home ownership and the use of privately-paid help were taken into account. Significant interaction effects were found, which indicated that older people in low SES groups in Great Britain and The Netherlands had higher odds of using informal help from outside the household than their counterparts in Italy, and similarly that those in The Netherlands were more likely to use formal help than their Italian peers. The results are discussed in relation to the cultural differences and variations in the availability of formal services among the countries.

(Published Online August 1 2006)
(Accepted January 2 2006)

Key Words: socio-economic status; informal help; formal help; old age.

c1 Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1081, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, The Netherlands. E-mail: