October 05, 2021 | Press Release

Women in Europe Are Less Likely to Have a Mammogram After They Retire

© iStockphoto.com/peakSTOCK

Retirement reduces secondary preventive care use among European women. MPIDR-Researcher Peter Eibich and a colleague suggest that access to healthcare may play a role in explaining their finding.

Regular exams are part of secondary preventive care by detecting diseases in early stages, like mammograms for breast cancer. Retired women in Europe are about 16 percentage points less likely to have a mammogram than working women, according to a recent study published in Economics & Human Biology. They are also less likely to use other secondary preventive care, such as manual breast examinations or examinations of the ovaries.

Effect is larger in countries with less generous social health insurance

“We examined potential mechanisms for these effects. And found that the probability of having breast cancer screening is substantially reduced for women in countries without population-based organized breast cancer screening programs”, says Peter Eibich, Deputy Head of the Research Group Labor Demography at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR).

The effect of retirement on preventive care use is also larger in countries with less generous health insurance systems. “That fact suggests that access to healthcare through employer-sponsored health insurance may play a role as well”, says Peter.

The researcher and his colleague Léontine Goldzahl used information on women’s medical check-ups and diagnostics from five Eurobarometer surveys. They were collected between 1996 and 2006 in all EU member states in these years. The Eurobarometer regularly collects survey data on different topics to meet the information needs of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

“In our study we systematically examine the potential mechanisms leading to the effect of retirement on healthcare use. In particular, our cross-country data allows us to consider the role of screening programs and social health insurance systems”, says Peter Eibich.

Original Publication

Eibich, P., Goldzahl, L.: Does retirement affect secondary preventive care use? Evidence from breast cancer screening. Economics & Human Biology (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2021.101061

Authors and Affiliations

Peter Eibich, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock; Health Economics Research Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford

Léontine Goldzahl, EDHEC Business School, Roubaix Cedex, France


Head of the Department of Public Relations and Publications

Silvia Leek


+49 381 2081-143

Science Communication Editor

Silke Schulz


+49 381 2081-153

Author of the paper

Deputy Head Research Group Labor Demographie

Peter Eibich


The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.