Centre for Health Equity Studies - CHESS

CHESS is a multidisciplinary research centre that was established in 2000 in collaboration between Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet. At CHESS, researchers in sociology, psychology, political science and public health science work together on issues related to health inequality. Inequality in health refers to systematic differences in health and survival between individuals and between socially defined groups. Differences in living conditions as a result of upbringing, education, work, financial resources and foreign origin are examples of circumstances that are studied in relation to health inequality at CHESS.

CHESS’s main goal is to conduct and promote research on inequality in health and to spread knowledge about such research to the surrounding society. Another important mission for CHESS is to work towards a broad dialogue between social science and medicine and to act as a link in the collaboration between the Department of Public Health at Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute in this research area. In addition to research, a main task for the centre’s researchers is to participate in the supervision and training of doctoral students.

CHESS is located on Campus Albano, Stockholm University, floor 5, building 4.



Denny Vågerö, Professor Emeritus at CHESS/Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University.Photo: Bitte Modin/Stockholm University

Warm congratulations to Denny Vågerö, one of the founders of CHESS, who on September 29 received a gold medal from the president of Stockholm University at the installation and promotion ceremony in the Stockholm City Hall! Stockholm University’s gold medal in the 8th size is awarded to those who have significantly contributed/participated in strengthening Stockholm University, its research or its teaching.

Denny Vågerö became a trailblazer for research in health inequality, a field which was only rarely studied in Sweden in the 1990’s. In the year 2000 he, Finn Diderichsen and Ulf Lundberg started the interdisciplinary research institute Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) at Stockholm University in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet and with financial support from the two universities and from the Swedish Council for Social Research (SFR). The preparations which led to the establishment of CHESS were extensive and Vågerö was also the Director of the Institute during its first nine years. His leadership of the Institute was successful and to a high degree based on external funding. Also, it was characterized by great care for the staff.

In 2008, when he initiated an international master’s programme in public health sciences at the Faculty of Social Sciences, this turned out to be a crucial choice for the future activities of the Institute. In the same year, Denny Vågerö and Olle Lundberg, the then incoming Director, initiated the school of research which paved the way, in 2013, for CHESS to shoulder the responsibility for a doctoral programme in public health sciences at Stockholm University.

Throughout his employment at the University, he has promoted research as well as teaching in public health sciences with a social science orientation. The academic area for human science has also profited from his membership in the World Health Organization’s “Commission on Social Determinants of Health” and in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. New generations have followed in his footsteps and contributed to the further success of the field.

In 2018, the Department of Public Health Sciences was established through a merger between the two research institutes CHESS and SoRAD (the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs). This development has been made possible not least thanks to Denny Vågerö’s previous exceptional contributions. His achievements have thus been of vital importance for strengthening both research and teaching at Stockholm University.


The research conducted at CHESS can be divided into four main areas:

1. Living conditions and health among children and young people

Stressors, stress and health complaints in adolescent girls and boys

What explains child welfare children’s underachievement in the educational system?

Social determinants of learning and health within the context of school

The relevance of the school for young people’s psychological health

How are young people with mental health problems doing later on?

The new generation of youth feel worse than in the past

School-contextual pathways to psychological symptoms among Swedish youth

2. Early origins of adult disease and later life chances as well as intergenerational transmission of health and social risks

Childhood trauma and its transgenerational response

Risk and resilience: Pathways to (ill)health among men and women with experiences of childhood adversity (RISE)

Reproduction of inequality through linked lives (RELINK)

Grandchildren of misfortune: The role of resilience for multigenerational patterns of inequality

Developmental origins of women´s health

Body size, mental health and inequalitiy (BMI): A life course perspective

Foster children as midlife adults

A life course perspective on bereavement in childhood and health problems in adulthood

Understanding the Roles of Origin and Destination: Behavioral Patterns and Health among the First and Second Generation of Finnish Migrants in Sweden

3. The importance of socio-economic conditions, working conditions, and welfare policies for health

Social inequalities in health and labor market attachment among older workers

Predictors and consequences of paid work following retirement in Sweden

Drivers of inequalities among families involved with child welfare services

Self-employment, precarious work and health inequalities in Sweden

The unintended consequences of Swedish parental leave policy: A health equity perspective

Cancer screening, stage at diagnosis and survival among people with disabilities

Labour market and health outcomes in adults with a family member who has a chronic illness

Post-retirement work: A path to extending working life that generates new inequalities?

4. Migration and health

Studies of Migration and Social Determinants of Health (SMASH)

Explaining COVID-19 mortality among immigrants in Sweden

Stockholm Birth Cohort

Migrant mortality advantage lost? Emerging lifespan inequalities among migrants & their descendants

The ambiguous socioeconomic gradient in immigrants’ health

The research in these areas covers both broad questions about longer chains of events and larger contexts, as well as more detailed questions about causal mechanisms. The focus thus ranges from description to explanations and on to policy and measures.

It is important that the research conducted at CHESS adapts to the changing world we live in. In recent years, we have seen an increased focus on issues related to migration, segregation and school conditions among the researchers at CHESS. In the light of the socio-demographic development in Sweden and in Europe, it is becoming more and more clear that individual dimensions of inequality (e.g. social class or country of birth) cannot be considered separately, but must be analyzed in relation to each other.

Intersectional perspectives can help us understand how these dimensions interact in relation to the development of health inequalities. In recent years, the covid-19 pandemic’s connection to the social, economic and health-related situation of various groups has emerged as a new and important research question at CHESS. From a public health perspective, it is important to underline the importance of the pandemic’s long-term consequences. In other words, the public health sciences’ work of analyzing the effects of the pandemic on school, work, welfare and care (as well as the related links to health inequality) has only just begun.


Please visit our Swedish page for information about our professorships within the frame of collaboration between CHESS and KI

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS


Please visit our Swedish page for information about our doctoral students within the frame of collaboration between CHESS and KI

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS


An important task for CHESS is to work for the development of research on inequality in health, while, at the same time act as a link in the collaboration between Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet. With this in mind, the board decided in early 2021 to use CHESS’ annual budget (SEK 150,000) to, in collaboration with the Aging Research Center and the Department of Global Public Health, start a doctoral network around issues related to health inequality.

The network has been named EQUINODE and is led by Karl Gauffin (SU) and Janne Agerholm (KI).



The board of CHESS consists of the chairman, director and three other members. The members are appointed for three years by the president of Stockholm University, except for the chairman who is appointed by the president of Karolinska Institutet. The board’s task is to support and promote the activities at the centre in accordance with it’s current objectives, to monitor and support collaboration with Karolinska Institutet, to prepare research-related matters for the department’s board, and carry out external monitoring within the centre’s area of research.

CHESS Board 2022


Marie Hasselberg, Professor of Public health epidemiology and Head of department at the Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet.

Marie Hasselberg


Bitte Modin, Professor of Medical sociology at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University.

Bitte Modin


Carin Lennartsson, Associate professor in Sociology and Director for Aging Research Center (ARC), Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm University.

Carin Lennartsson

Peter Skogman Thoursie, Professor in Economics at the Department of Economics, Stockholm University.

Peter Skogman Thoursie

Staff Representative

Karl Gauffin, Doctor of Public Health at the Department of Public Health, Stockholm University.

Karl Gauffin


Please visit our Swedish page for information about CHESS history
(Swedish documents)

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS

Please visit our Swedish page for information about CHESS previous activities (Swedish documents)

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS

Please visit our Swedish page for information about the evaluations of CHESS (Swedish documents)

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS

Please visit our Swedish page for a list of publications

Centrum för forskning om ojämlikhet i hälsa - CHESS



Contact information for CHESS

Bitte Modin, Director of the Centre

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