Differences in Adult Health of East and West Germans: A Longitudinal Cohort Perspective

Katharina Loter , Tilburg University
Oliver Arránz Becker, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg

A great majority of individuals living in the former GDR experienced equal life conditions with regard to the communist regime, irrespective of their families’ socioeconomic situation. Within few years after the German unification, health care and living standards in Eastern Germany came up to the level of Western Germany, nonetheless, for the former citizens of the GDR previous systemic socialisation and experiences might continue to affect their adult health in a specific way. Applying a cohort perspective, we examine health trajectories over the life course for East and West Germans, depending on their highest individual educational level ever attained as a potential leveler of health inequalities. Our analytical G-SOEP sample consists of German-born individuals who lived continuously either in the former FRG or GDR until 1989. We use subdimensions of the SF-12 health instrument (e.g., physical and social functioning, vitality, general health) and diverse health-related behaviors (e.g., amount of smoking, frequency of physical exercise) as outcome variables. We estimate latent growth curve models in the age-cohort-period specification (using age as process time) revealing a thorough picture of cohort-specific health trajectories by education. Our preliminary results show similar trajectories for West and East Germans (conditional on their educational attainment) in mental health but not in physical health and health-related behaviors, suggesting that the context of living and working might trigger health-related inequalities throughout the life course. Further, we observe significant differences in health trajectories across younger West German cohorts, and rather homogeneous patterns across East German and older West German cohorts.

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 Presented in Session 94. Educational and SES Differences in Health and Wellbeing Over the Lifecourse