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Research at St Andrews

Intergenerational exchanges, children's education and parents' longevity in Europe

Research output: Working paper


The link between children’s health and the education of their parents, especially mothers, is now well established. However, far less is known about the possible influence of the educational attainment of adult children on the health of their parents. This study investigates the relationship between the education of adult children and the longevity of older parents using individual-level longitudinal data for 11 countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Of particular interest is whether having well-educated adult children is associated with a health benefit for their parents. Cox proportional hazard models predict the risk of death for mothers and for fathers as a function of (a) adult children’s education, and (b) the difference between the educational attainment of child and parent. Regional variation across Europe is also examined. The results indicate that adult children’s educational attainment is independently related to parental mortality after controlling for possible confounders, and that having children with upper secondary or tertiary levels of education is associated with a significantly reduced risk of mortality if the parents do not have tertiary education. Further, a similar pattern of association is found across regions with different levels of welfare provision, family forms and regimes of help and care. Although the analyses cannot determine the causal direction of the intergenerational exchange, we argue that the results suggest upward health transfers from adult children to their parents and thus support an intergenerational approach to health policy interventions.


Original languageEnglish
PublisherESRC Centre for Population Change
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameWorking Paper Series
PublisherESRC Centre for Population Change
ISSN (Print)2042-4116

    Research areas

  • Longevity, mortality, parents, adult children, education, health transfers, Europe

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