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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Emotional support, education and self-rated health in 22 European countries

Olaf von dem Knesebeck1* and Siegfried Geyer2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Sociology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistr. 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

2 Medical Sociology Unit, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:272  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-272

Published: 1 October 2007



The analyses focus on three aims: (1) to explore the associations between education and emotional support in 22 European countries, (2) to explore the associations between emotional support and self-rated health in the European countries, and (3) to analyse whether the association between education and self-rated health can be partly explained by emotional support.


The study uses data from the European Social Survey 2003. Probability sampling from all private residents aged 15 years and older was applied in all countries. The European Social Survey includes 42,359 cases. Persons under age 25 were excluded to minimise the number of respondents whose education was not complete. Education was coded according to the International Standard Classification of Education. Perceived emotional support was assessed by the availability of a confidant with whom one can discuss intimate and personal matters with. Self-rated health was used as health indicator.


Results of multiple logistic regression analyses show that emotional support is positively associated with education among women and men in most European countries. However, the magnitude of the association varies according to country and gender. Emotional support is positively associated with self-rated health. Again, gender and country differences in the association were observed. Emotional support explains little of the educational differences in self-rated health among women and men in most European countries.


Results indicate that it is important to consider socio-economic factors like education and country-specific contexts in studies on health effects of emotional support.