Program grant:  social inequalities in ageing (SIA): health, care, and institutional reforms in the Nordic welfare model

PI: Johan Fritzell, johan.fritzell@ki.se

The dramatic increase in life expectancy in the past 150 years is one of the most remarkable achievements in human history, but old age is often accompanied by poor health and functional disabilities. Population aging thus poses a serious challenge to the Nordic welfare model, which relies on universal provision of tax-financed social programs. The demographic shift has already led to questions about whether the Nordic countries can afford to maintain such programs in their current forms.

Moreover, health and survival in old age is unequally distributed throughout populations. Women tend to have poorer health than men but nevertheless outlive them. People with lower levels of education, those with lower incomes, and manual workers are substantially more likely to have health problems in old age and tend to die at earlier ages than those with more education, higher incomes, and backgrounds as non-manual workers. Similarly, with some notable exceptions, immigrants tend to have more health problems than those born in the Nordic countries.

To meet the dual challenges of population aging and social inequalities in late-life health, it is of the utmost importance to map out the life course predictors of healthy aging and to understand the impact of welfare state changes and recent social reforms on social equality. Our overarching aims are therefore to shed new light on the life-course predictors of healthy aging, better understand how Nordic welfare institutions meet the needs of older adults, and illuminate whether the increased focus on the individual and market-inspired solutions has led to increased or new social inequalities.

Our group consists of researchers from a wide range of academic backgrounds and all the Nordic countries. We will use a range of high quality Nordic databases in our studies, including both survey data and data from administrative registries.

Partners: Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet; Department of Social Work, Stockholm University; Faculty of Health and Medical Science, University of Copenhagen; School of Health Sciences and the Gerontology Research Center, University of Tampere; School of Social Sciences, University of Iceland; Velferdsforskningsinstituttet NOVA, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences Centre for Welfare and Labour Research

The project is funded by NordForsk. Project webpage: http://www.sia-project.se/