Stockholm university

Research on morbidity and mortality receives ERC Starting Grant

Matthew Wallace at Stockholm University receives the prestigious ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council, ERC, 2023.

Matthew Wallace, Associate Professor at the Stockholm University Demography Unit and Department of Sociology. Photo: Elin Sahlin

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded starting grants to 19 Swedish researchers 2023, of which one is based at Stockholm University. Matthew Wallace, Associate Professor in demography at the Stockholm University Demography Unit and Department of Sociology, receives ERC Starting Grant 2023 for the project “Living longer in poorer health? Understanding the immigrant morbidity-mortality paradox / PARA-MOR”. The funding is worth 1.5 million euro and the project will be carried out during the years 2024–2028.

Matthew Wallace’s research focuses on a range of projects related to migration, the children of migrants, population health, public health, demography and social inequality. In the current project he analyses the idea that immigrants are living longer than native-born (non-migrant) populations, but suffering from a greater burden of diseases throughout their lifetime.


Migrants’ health an urgent issue 

“International immigration in the past half century or so has transformed the demographic landscape of Europe. Migrants now account for sizeable shares of a European resident population that is more diverse than ever. Migrants are also “ageing-in-place” (i.e., growing older in the destination country rather than returning to their country of birth) to ages where health issues and interactions with health care services are becoming more frequent. With this in mind, the idea that migrants might be living longer, but suffering from a greater burden of diseases, represents a highly pressing social and public health concern. It raises questions about the capabilities of national health care systems and welfare systems to satisfy migrants’ unique, diverse and complex health needs. It provokes debate about the quality of, and variation in, migrants’ personal life experiences in the destination country after arriving there. It entails preventable costs for society that include higher health care costs, lower labor market participation, and decreased tax revenues. It may even imply that migrants’ human rights are not being met,” says Matthew Wallace.

To address this, he aims to establish the existence, extent, and causes of this immigrant morbidity-mortality paradox. He will use cutting-edge techniques to analyze longitudinal micro-level data on morbidity and mortality from the same source of information: the population registers of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

“Fundamentally, I hope that we can answer whether international migrants truly are living longer in poorer health. If so, I hope that we can understand why. If we can do that, this project has the exciting potential to bring us closer than ever to understanding the unique health of migrants, it can set a new standard for how to conduct research in the area, spark brand new conversations and collaborations between migrant health scholars, and help to dictate the direction of future research on migrant health. I also hope that it can provide groundbreaking evidence to inform emerging migrant health policies in Europe.”

What does this grant mean for your research?

“This grant allows me to take a huge leap in my research. Namely, explicitly examining the morbidity (i.e., diseases and medical conditions) and mortality of international migrants together. I have a strong track record in my career so far of investigating the morbidity OR mortality of international migrants (and their children) in different countries, but never the two together. There are so few countries in the world in which this would be possible, but the Nordic region and its rich register data present such an occasion.”

The European Research Council allocates different types of funding and the purpose of the ERC Starting Grant is to encourage talented young research leaders in Europe to become independent and build their own careers. This year, 400 research projects in the EU will amount to a total of 628 million euros.

Read more about Matthew Wallace.

Read the press release about ERC Starting Grants.