Researcher Antti Tanskanen, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki

Column: Finland and SHARE


The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a longitudinal research project collecting data from individuals aged 50 or over. The panel surveys collect information on physical and mental health, economic situation, and social support and networks. The first wave was fielded in 2004-2005 and follow-up surveys have been conducted at two year intervals. Data have been collected through four waves from over 60,000 respondents in twenty European countries.

Unfortunately, Finland is not one of those countries. Finland decided that it does not need to participate in SHARE. Decision-makers justified this decision by saying that the information collected in SHARE could be found from other sources in Finland. This is not quite the case, however, since few Finnish surveys contain longitudinal data on issues covered by SHARE.

Not participating in SHARE means in practice that there are still no follow-up studies in Finland investigating important themes relating to ageing. In addition, Finland is left out of major international comparative studies where membership in SHARE would have meant automatic inclusion. This way we are all the time losing important knowledge of, for instance, changes in the health of ageing Finns compared to the health of ageing individuals in other European countries.

By not participating in SHARE, Finland is also losing potential international visibility. Researchers have open access to SHARE data which have been used in a great number of scientific publications in different fields. These fields include epidemiology, gerontology, economics, sociology and social policy.

One option to get comparative data from Finland is to take the questions and themes of SHARE into account when designing questionnaires or interview questions. This has been done in the longitudinal Baby Boomers’ Generational Transmissions in Finland (Gentrans) project which is funded by the Academy of Finland. The project studies family relationships of ageing people born in 1945-1950. Nevertheless, the Gentrans project can only cover some of the numerous themes studied in SHARE.

It is also worthwhile to point out that even though Finnish surveys covering the same themes were designed taking the SHARE questionnaires into account, this still would not remove all problems caused by Finland’s non-participation. As long as Finland is not a SHARE country we will unavoidably be left out of international comparative research using SHARE data.

The only solution would be that Finland becomes a SHARE member as soon as possible so that we could participate in the next wave. Sadly, this seems unlikely.