The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of microdata on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of more than 86,000 individuals aged 50 or over and their spouses (approximately 380,000 interviews) from 28 European countries. SHARE is unique in that it is not only multidisciplinary, but also multinational. SHARE’s main aim is to provide data on individuals as they age in order to analyze the process of individual and population ageing in depth.

Covering the key areas of life, namely health, socio-economics and social networks, SHARE includes a great variety of information: health variables (e.g. self-reported health, health conditions, physical and cognitive functioning, health behavior, use of health care facilities), biomarkers (see below), psychological variables (e.g. mental health, well-being, life satisfaction), economic variables (current work activity, job characteristics, opportunities to work past retirement age, sources and composition of current income, wealth and consumption, housing, education), and social support variables (e.g. assistance within families, transfers of income and assets, volunteer activities) as well as social network information (e.g. contacts, proximity, satisfaction with network). SHARE is harmonized with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Data Collection

The target population for inference from SHARE is the European population aged 50+. To achieve representation of this population, SHARE employs a sample design which involves baseline samples of the household population aged 50+ at a particular point in time in each country, supplemented by regular refreshment samples of the sub-population of people, who have turned 50 since the original baseline sample was selected. Waves of data collection take place every two years. There are eight waves of data available from 2004 to 2019/2021.


From the first wave (2004) on, SHARE combined self-reported health with two physical performance measurements: grip strength and walking speed. Additionally, respondents reported their height and weight. In the subsequent waves further biomarkers where included, like peak-flow (measuring lung strength) and chair stand (measuring lower body performance); for an overview see attached table.

In wave four (2010), Germany served as a pilot country for the inclusion of innovative biomarkers for a future full-scale implementation in SHARE. The new measures included were dried blood spot samples (DBSS), measured height (in addition to self-reported height), waist circumference, and blood pressure. In the wave 6 capillary blood was taken from 27,000 respondents in 13 countries. In Poland, DBSS and small sample of venous blood were collected.

The major goal of the DBSS collection is to gather objective blood values. The blood spots are being analyzed for C-reactive protein (CRP), HbA1c, total hemoglobin (tHB), total and HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, Cystatin C, Vitamin D, and eight cytokines (BDNF, VEGF, MCP1, EGF, IL-16, IL-8, IL12/23, IL-18), two lipoproteins APOE4 and Clusterin (APOJ). Two laboratories are assigned to analyze biomarkers: the Department for Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, USA; and the laboratory at the Staten Serum Institut in Copenhagen. No DNA data are available.