SHARE - Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe


SHARE, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, was established in 2004 to deliver the data needed to conduct research on population ageing and the different ways in which people aged 50 years and older live in Europe and Israel.

SHARE is a multidisciplinary panel database with micro-level data on health, socioeconomic status and social and family networks from individuals aged 50 years or older. Data are collected through computer-assisted personal interviews (CAPI) approximately every two years. Currently, seven waves are available for scientific research purposes.


Target population

The survey’s target population are individuals who are 50 years or older at the time of sampling, and their spouses/partners, regardless of the spouse’s/partner’s age at that time. Other household members are not interviewed.

Participating countries

Eleven European countries participated in the first SHARE wave in 2004: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. Israel joined the SHARE framework in late 2004, being the first country in the Middle East to initiate a systematic study of its ageing population.

Throughout the years, other European countries joined SHARE: Czech Republic and Poland in wave 2; Estonia, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia in wave 4; Luxembourg in wave 5; and Croatia in wave 6. In wave 7, full coverage of the EU was achieved by including 8 new countries in SHARE: Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus.

Sampling frame and sampling design

Ideally, all SHARE countries apply probability-based sampling from an official population register. In some countries, however, such registers are not available and other sampling frames are used.

Most countries use a stratified multi-stage sampling design. Generally, the country is divided into several strata in a first step to represent geographical areas within the country. In a second step, PSUs such as municipalities or zip codes are drawn, often with a probability proportional to their size. Finally, individuals or households are drawn. For more detailed information on the sampling frames and designs applied by country and wave, please see Bergmann, Kneip, De Luca, and Scherpenzeel (2019).

In Belgium, the sample is drawn from the National Register. Belgium uses a two-stage stratified probability sampling design, with municipalities in the first stage and individuals in the second stage.

Survey content

Regular SHARE waves (1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 (partly))

SHARE covers a wide range of topics related to the lives of the target population. Recurrent topics are demographics; children; physical health; behavioural risks; cognitive functioning; mental health; health care; employment and pensions; social support; financial transfers; housing; household income; consumption; assets; activities and well-being; and expectations for the future. The vast majority of the questions are asked every consecutive wave, and there is one module on social networks recurring every second wave. SHARE also includes objective health data: grip strength (each wave), walking speed, peak flow, chair stand test, and dried blood spots. Check the SHARE website to see which measure is included in which wave(s).

Retrospective data: SHARELIFE (wave 3 and 7 (partly))
While the regular SHARE waves are prospective and ask questions regarding the past two years and current circumstances, wave 3 and wave 7 are retrospective and collect data on people’s life histories. This dataset is also known as SHARELIFE, and it complements the SHARE panel data.

In wave 7, only those respondents who did not participate in wave 3 answered the retrospective questionnaire in wave 7. The other respondents, who had already done a SHARELIFE interview in wave 3, answered the regular SHARE questionnaire.

Accessing and preparing the data for analysis

Data access

SHARE data are provided free of charge for scientific use after registering. Please visit the SHARE website for the three easy steps you need to take in order to register. If you would like to explore SHARE’s codebook first, please consult the Data and Documentation Tool.

Data preparation

SHARE data are stored in many separate data files in Stata and SPSS format. For each wave there is a separate data file for each module (e.g. ‘dn.dta’ for the module on demographics (DN) and ‘ch.dta’ for the module on children (CH)). The variable ‘mergeid’ uniquely defines each respondent and is the key variable to use when merging modules and/or waves. In Stata, modules from the same wave can be merged using -merge-, and waves can be merged using -append-. More information on the data can be found in the Release Guide (see SHARE documentation below).


You can find the answers to frequently asked questions on FAQ page on the international SHARE website.


The international coordination of SHARE lies in the hands of the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), which is part of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy and led by Axel Börsch-Supan.

The Flemish participation in SHARE is coordinated here at our university. The CSB (specifically, Koen Decancq and Daniela Skugor) is responsible for the scientific coordination, while the Centre for Population, Family and Health (specifically, Jorik Vergauwen and Martine Vandervelden) coordinates the fieldwork. The University of Liège coordinates the participation of Wallonia and Brussels to the survey.


  1. The survey is harmonised across all 28 SHARE countries, and with sister studies such as HRS (USA) and ELSA (UK). The harmonised data can be found on the Gateway to Global Aging Data website.
  2. For teaching purposes, consider using easySHARE: a simplified dataset stored in one single file. Visit the SHARE website for more information on easySHARE and how to gain access for your students.
  3. Visit or (in Dutch or French) for more information on SHARE.

Documentation and publications

SHARE documentation

Use the SHARE Data and Documentation Tool to generate codebooks and browse SHARE (meta)data without downloading the data. The tool may also be used to browse through SHARE-based publications.

Furthermore, the international SHARE website provides all relevant in-depth documentation, such as:

  • The Release Guide: use this document for general information on the SHARE database such as naming of variables, missing code scheme, merging modules and/or waves as well as wave-specific information like important questionnaire innovations, methodological advancements and new procedures introduced between waves;
  • Questionnaires: for each wave, an English generic questionnaire as well as the country-specific versions can be downloaded;
  • Methodology Volumes and Technical Reports: consult these for more information on methodology and innovations in each wave;
  • Information about special datasets, such as easySHARE, the Job Episodes Panel, and the SHARE COVID-19 survey.

SHARE publications from the UA team

Vergauwen, J., & Mortelmans, D. (2019). An integrative analysis of sibling influences on adult children's care-giving for parents. Ageing and society (2019), p. 1-25. DOI:10.1017/S0144686X19001156.

Vergauwen, J., & Mortelmans, D. (2019). Parental health, informal support, and geographic mobility between parents and adult children. Population, Space and Place. DOI:10.1002/psp.2301

Skugor, D. (2018). De arbeidsgeschiedenis van Belgische ouderen in kaart gebracht. Tijdschrift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken, 34(4), pp. 494-510.

Decancq, K., & Michiels, A. (2017). Measuring Successful Aging With Respect for Preferences of Older Persons. The Journals of Gerontology: SeriesB, gbx060. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbx060.

Skugor, D., Van Lancker, W., & Van den Bosch, K. (2017). Ongelijkheid in loopbaan en pensioen: het Mattheuseffect in actie. Geron 19(3): 19-23 DOI: 10.1007/s40718-017-0045-2.

Kovalenko, M., & Mortelmans, D. (2016). Does career type matter? Outcomes in traditional and transitional career patterns. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 85, pp. 238-249. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2014.07.003

De Preter, H., Van Looy, D., & Mortelmans, D. (2015). En dan is je loopbaan voorbij: determinanten van (on)vrijwillige arbeidsmarktuittrede bij 50-plussers in Europa. Over.werk: tijdschrift van het Steunpunt WSE, 25 (2), pp. 86-95.

Kovalenko, M., De Preter, H., & Mortelmans, D. (2015). Vier jaar loopbaanonderzoek binnen steunpunt WSE: wat leerden we over de transitie werk-pensioen? Over.werk: tijdschrift van het Steunpunt WSE, 25 (2), pp. 25-32.

Laferrère, A., & Van den Bosch, K. (2015). Unmet need for long-term care and social exclusion. In A. Börsch-Supan, T. Kneip, H. Litwin, M. Myck, & G. Weber (Eds.), Ageing in Europe – Supporting Policies for an Inclusive Society (pp. 331-342). Berlin: De Gruyter. DOI:10.1515/9783110444414-032.

Cantillon, B., & Vandenbroucke, F. (Eds.) (2014). Reconciling work and poverty reduction: how successful are European welfare states? Oxford University Press, 494 pagina’s.

De Preter, H., Van Looy, D. & Mortelmans, D. (2014). Retirement timing of dual-earner couples in 11 European contries? A comparison of cox and shared frailty models. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, pp. 1-12. DOI: 10.1007/s10834-014-9403-6.