The aim of this study was to determine the degree to which welfare state regime characteristics explained the proportional variation of self-perceived health between European countries, when individual and regional variation was accounted for, by undertaking a multilevel analysis of the European Social Survey (2002 and 2004). A total of 65,065 individuals, from 218 regions and 21 countries, aged 25 years and above were included in the analysis. The health outcomes related to people's own mental and physical health, in general. The study showed that almost 90% of the variation in health was attributable to the individual-level, while approximately 10% was associated with national welfare state characteristics. The variation across regions within countries was not significant. Type of welfare state regime appeared to account for approximately half of the national-level variation of health inequalities between European countries. People in countries with Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon welfare regimes were observed to have better self-perceived general health in comparison to Southern and East European welfare regimes. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All fights reserved.