Since 2001 I am Professor of Health Equity Studies, and I have conducted research on welfare, ageing and inequalities in health for more than 25 years. I have held leading roles in a number of European and Nordic research collaborations, and currently I am responsible for the Swedish part in two Nordic collaborative projects funded by NordForsk (C-LIFE and WELLIFE). In addition, I run a project on mechanisms behind increasing inequalities in health funded by The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. Previously I was the Director for CHESS.
I have also made considerable efforts to develop advice and recommendations for policy on basis of current research. This strand of work has included commissioned work for the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, chairing a Task Group in the Review of Health Inequalities and the Health Divide in the WHO European Region, and work in advisory boards in Norway and Sweden. Recently I was appointed by the Swedish Government to chair the Swedish Commission for Equity in Health between 2015 and 2017. On basis of a broad welfare policy approach, the Commission has proposed a series of measures that would contribute to closing the health gaps in Sweden.
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
The contribution of alcohol consumption and smoking to educational inequalities in life expectancy among Swedish men and women during 1991–2008
2018. Olof Östergren, Pekka Martikainen, Olle Lundberg. International Journal of Public Health 63 (1), 41-48Article
To assess the level and changes in contribution of smoking and alcohol-related mortality to educational differences in life expectancy in Sweden.
We used register data on the Swedish population at ages 30–74 during 1991–2008. Cause of death was used to identify alcohol-related deaths, while smoking-related mortality was estimated using lung cancer mortality to indirectly assess the impact of smoking on all-cause mortality.
Alcohol consumption and smoking contributed to educational differences in life expectancy. Alcohol-related mortality was higher among men and contributed substantially to inequalities among men and made a small (but increasing) contribution to inequalities among women. Smoking-related mortality decreased among men but increased among women, primarily among the low educated. At the end of the follow-up, smoking-related mortality were at similar levels among men and women. The widening gap in life expectancy among women could largely be attributed to smoking.
Smoking and alcohol consumption contribute to educational differences in life expectancy among men and women. The majority of the widening in the educational gap in mortality among women can be attributed to alcohol and smoking-related mortality.
Educational expansion and inequalities in mortality — A fixed-effects analysis using longitudinal data from 18 European populations
2017. Olof Östergren (et al.). PLoS ONE 12 (8)Article
The aim of this paper is to empirically evaluate whether widening educational inequalities in mortality are related to the substantive shifts that have occurred in the educational distribution.
Materials and methods
Data on education and mortality from 18 European populations across several decades were collected and harmonized as part of the Demetriq project. Using a fixed-effects approach to account for time trends and national variation in mortality, we formally test whether the magnitude of relative inequalities in mortality by education is associated with the gender and age-group specific proportion of high and low educated respectively.
The results suggest that in populations with larger proportions of high educated and smaller proportions of low educated, the excess mortality among intermediate and low educated is larger, all other things being equal.
We conclude that the widening educational inequalities in mortality being observed in recent decades may in part be attributed to educational expansion.
2017. Olle Lundberg. International Journal of Epidemiology 46 (1), 1332-1333Article
Welfare states and health inequalities
2015. Olle Lundberg (et al.). Canadian public policy 41 (Suppl. 2), S26-S33Article
While much research points to the importance of a range of welfare state policies to reduce inequalities in health, the growing literature in this field is full of mixed and contradictory results. In this paper, we provide a brief discussion about the different conceptual and methodological approaches used in comparative research on the relationship between welfare policies and health. Against a theoretical discussion of possible linkages among one central welfare policy, unemployment benefit schemes, and health, we also provide examples of findings on how two central dimensions of such schemes—coverage and replacement rates—are linked to health and health inequalities across Europe. These examples indicate not only that welfare state programs can contribute to smaller health inequalities but also that their effectiveness in this respect depends on their institutional set-up.