Mikael Rostila

Mikael Rostila

Head of Department/Professor

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Public Health Sciences
Telephone 08-16 44 16
Visiting address Sveavägen 160, Sveaplan
Room 338
Postal address Institutionen för folkhälsovetenskap 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Mikael is Professor of Public Health Science and Associate Professor of Sociology. He is currently Head of Department of Public Health Sciences at Stockholm University. Mikael is the PI of a larger research programme financed by FORTE called “Social determinants of health among individuals with foreign background: Societal and individual perspectives” (SMASH) (2017-2022). He also leads the project “A life course perspective on bereavement in childhood and health problems in adulthood” financed by the Swedish Research Council (VR) (2018-2020).

Mikael’s research broadly deals with health inequalities and the social determinants of health. He has published a popular textbook in Swedish within the field together with Susanna Toivanen Den Orättvisa Hälsan – Om socioekonomiska skillnader i hälsa och livslängd (Liber). He has also published a book on how social capital contributes to health and health inequalities in European welfare states, Social capital and health inequality in European Welfare States (Palgrave MacMillan).

Some more specific research interests include:

  • Health and its social determinants in people with foreign background
  • How social networks and social capital influence health and health behaviours
  • Income inequality and its consequences for health and mortality
  • Health consequences by the loss of a family member
  • How birth order influence health and longevity


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Sol Juárez (et al.). The Lancet Global Health

    Background: Government policies can strongly influence migrants' health. Using a Health in All Policies approach, we systematically reviewed evidence on the impact of public policies outside of the health-care system on migrant health. Methods: We searched the PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases from Jan 1, 2000, to Sept 1, 2017, for quantitative studies comparing the health effects of non-health-targeted public policies on migrants with those on a relevant comparison population. We searched for articles written in English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, French, Spanish, or Portuguese. Qualitative studies and grey literature were excluded. We evaluated policy effects by migration stage (entry, integration, and exit) and by health outcome using narrative synthesis (all included studies) and random-effects meta-analysis (all studies whose results were amenable to statistical pooling). We summarised meta-analysis outcomes as standardised mean difference (SMD, 95% CI) or odds ratio (OR, 95% CI). To assess certainty, we created tables containing a summary of the findings according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation. Our study was registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42017076104. Findings: We identified 43 243 potentially eligible records. 46 articles were narratively synthesised and 19 contributed to the meta-analysis. All studies were published in high-income countries and examined policies of entry (nine articles) and integration (37 articles). Restrictive entry policies (eg, temporary visa status, detention) were associated with poor mental health (SMD 0·44, 95% CI 0·13–0·75; I²=92·1%). In the integration phase, restrictive policies in general, and specifically regarding welfare eligibility and documentation requirements, were found to increase odds of poor selfrated health (OR 1·67, 95% CI 1·35–1·98; I²=82·0%) and mortality (1·38, 1·10–1·65; I²=98·9%). Restricted eligibility for welfare support decreased the odds of general health-care service use (0·92, 0·85–0·98; I²=0·0%), but did not reduce public health insurance coverage (0·89, 0·71–1·07; I²=99·4%), nor markedly affect proportions of people without health insurance (1·06, 0·90–1·21; I²=54·9%). Interpretation: Restrictive entry and integration policies are linked to poor migrant health outcomes in high-income countries. Efforts to improve the health of migrants would benefit from adopting a Health in All Policies perspective.

  • 2017. Mikael Rostila (et al.). American Journal of Epidemiology 185 (12), 1247-1254

    Although there is some evidence of an association between loss of a sibling in adulthood and subsequentmortality, there have been no previous studies in which investigators have examined whether the death of a sibling in childhood is associated with adult mortality using total population data. Data on a national cohort born in Sweden in 1973-1982 (n = 717,723) were prospectively collected from the Cause of Death Register until 2013 (i.e., from the ages of 18 years to 31-40 years). Cox proportional hazards models were used to analyze the association between sibling loss during childhood and death in young adulthood. After adjustment for sociodemographic confounders and parental psychosocial covariates, the hazard ratio for all-cause mortality in bereaved siblings versus nonbereaved siblings was 1.39 (95% confidence interval: 1.14, 1.69). Risks were more pronounced for those who lost a noninfant sibling (i.e., > 1 year of age) (hazard ratio = 1.53, 95% confidence interval: 1.18, 1.95) and those who lost a sibling in adolescence (i.e., between the ages of 12 and 18 years) (hazard ratio = 1.71, 95% confidence interval: 1.24, 2.35). Excess mortality risk was found for concordant causes of death (i. e., siblings dying from the same causes) but not for discordant causes.

  • 2016. Andrea C. Dunlavy, Anthony M. Garcy, Mikael Rostila. Social Science and Medicine 154, 36-44

    Foreign-born workers have been shown to experience poorer working conditions than native-born workers. Yet relationships between health and educational mismatch have been largely overlooked among foreign-born workers. This study uses objective and self-reported measures of educational mismatch to compare the prevalence of educational mismatch among native (n = 2359) and foreign born (n = 1789) workers in Sweden and to examine associations between educational mismatch and poor self-rated health. Findings from weighted multivariate logistic regression which controlled for social position and individual-level demographic characteristics suggested that over-educated foreign-born workers had greater odds ratios for poor-self rated health compared to native-born matched workers. This association was particularly evident among men (OR = 2.14, 95% CI: 1.04-4.39) and women (OR = 2.13, 95% CI: 1.12-4.03) from countries outside of Western Europe, North America, and Australia/New Zealand. Associations between under-education and poor-self rated health were also found among women from countries outside of Western Europe, North America, and Australia/New Zealand (OR = 2.02, 95% CI: 1.27-3.18). These findings suggest that educational mismatch may be an important work-related social determinant of health among foreign-born workers. Future studies are needed to examine the effects of long-term versus short-term states of educational mismatch on health and to study relationships over time.

  • 2015. Mikael Rostila (et al.). European Journal of Epidemiology 30 (3), 239-247

    Lingering grief associated with the death of a loved one has been hypothesized to precipitate acute health events among survivors on anniversary dates. We sought to study excess mortality risk in parents around the death date and birth date of a deceased child as an indication of a "bereavement effect". We conducted a population based follow-up study using Swedish registries including links between children and parents. All biological and Swedish-born parents who experienced the death of a minor child born were observed during the period 1973-2008 (n = 48,666). An increased mortality risk was found during the week of a child's death among mothers who lost a child aged 0-17 years (SMRR = 1.46, 95 % CI 0.98-2.17). The association was stronger among mothers who lost a child aged 1-17 years (SMRR = 1.89, 95 % CI 0.97-3.67) as compared to those who lost an infant (SMRR = 1.29, 95 % CI 0.78-2.12). Cardiovascular diseases and suicides were overrepresented as causes of death in mothers who died around the anniversary. We found no significant increase in the mortality risk around the date of child's birth, nor any suggestion of excess mortality risk among fathers, but rather a depression of paternal death (SMRR = 0.60, 95 % CI 0.34-1.03). Our study indicates an anniversary reaction among mothers who lost a young child. These results suggest that bereavement per se could have an effect on health and mortality which should be acknowledged by public health professionals working with bereaved people.

  • 2014. Mikael Rostila, Jan Saarela, Ichiro Kawachi. American Journal of Epidemiology 179 (12), 1450-1457

    Each year, almost 1 million people die from suicide, which is among the leading causes of death in young people. We studied how birth order was associated with suicide and other main causes of death. A follow-up study based on the Swedish population register was conducted for sibling groups born from 1932 to 1980 who were observed during the period 1981-2002. Focus was on the within-family variation in suicide risk, meaning that we studied sibling groups that consisted of 2 or more children in which at least 1 died from suicide. These family-fixed effects analyses revealed that each increase in birth order was related to an 18% higher suicide risk (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 1.23, P = 0.000). The association was slightly lower among sibling groups born in 1932-1955 (hazard ratio = 1.13, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.21, P = 0.000) than among those born in 1967-1980 (hazard ratio = 1.24, 95% CI: 0.97, 1.57, P = 0.080). Further analyses suggested that the association between birth order and suicide was only modestly influenced by sex, birth spacing, size of the sibling group, own socioeconomic position, own marital status, and socioeconomic rank within the sibling group. Causes of death other than suicide and other external causes were not associated with birth order.

  • 2014. Mikael Rostila, Johan Fritzell. American Journal of Public Health 104 (4), 686-695

    Objectives. We studied mortality differentials between specific groups of foreign-born immigrants in Sweden and whether socioeconomic position (SEP) could account for such differences. Methods. We conducted a follow-up study of 1 997 666 men and 1 964 965 women ages 30 to 65 years based on data from national Swedish total population registers. We examined mortality risks in the 12 largest immigrant groups in Sweden between 1998 and 2006 using Cox regression. We also investigated deaths from all causes, circulatory disease, neoplasms, and external causes. Results. We found higher all-cause mortality among many immigrant categories, although some groups had lower mortality. When studying cause-specific mortality, we found the largest differentials in deaths from circulatory disease, whereas disparities in mortality from neoplasms were smaller. SEP, especially income and occupational class, accounted for most of the mortality differentials by country of birth. Conclusions. Our findings stressed that different aspects of SEP were not interchangeable in relation to immigrant health. Although policies aimed at improving immigrants' socioeconomic conditions might be beneficial for health and longevity, our findings indicated that such policies might have varying effects depending on the specific country of origin and cause of death.

  • 2013. Mikael Rostila.

    This book sets out unique findings on whether social capital influences health and health inequalities in European welfare states. Drawing on cross-national data from the European Social Survey (ESS) as well as Swedish national survey data and registers, the book develops a new theoretical definition of social capital that guides the books empirical studies. The findings suggest that welfare state generosity is a decisive factor for social capital and that social capital is of significance for health inequalities both between and within European welfare states. The book also discusses the potential dark sides of social capital and examines evidence of circumstances in which social capital has negative health externalities.

  • 2012. Mikael Rostila, Susanna Toivanen.

    I vilken utsträckning är hälsan ojämlikt fördelad i Sverige och i övriga världen? Varför lever människor med högre social position längre än andra? Hur kan hälsan fördelas mer rättvist?Dessa är några av de frågor som denna unika svenska bok önskar besvara och klargöra. Boken handlar om hur människors position i samhällets hierarkiska strukturer är nära förknippad med systematiska skillnader i hälsa. Var vi råkar födas i världen, men även den sociala position vi har i ett givet samhälle, har stor betydelse för vår hälsa och livslängd. Trots att en jämlik hälsa borde vara en mänsklig rättighet har hälsans ojämlika fördelning ofta stått långt ned på den politiska dagordningen.

  • 2012. Mikael Rostila, Jan Saarela, Ichiro Kawachi. American Journal of Epidemiology 176 (4), 338-346

    Previous findings have suggested that the loss of a family member is associated with mortality among bereaved family members. The least-studied familial relationship in the bereavement literature is that of siblings, although loss of a sibling may also involve health consequences. The authors conducted a follow-up study based on data from the Swedish total population register, covering the period 1981–2002. Using Cox regression, mortality risk ratios for bereaved and nonbereaved persons aged 18–69 years were estimated. All-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality (unnatural causes, natural causes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, suicide, accidents, and all other causes) were examined. In men, the mortality risk for bereaved persons versus nonbereaved persons was 1.26 (95% confidence interval: 1.22, 1.30), and in women it was 1.33 (95% confidence interval: 1.28, 1.39). An elevated mortality risk associated with a sibling's death was found in all age groups studied, but the association was generally stronger at younger ages and could be observed predominantly after more than 1 year of follow-up. There was also an increased mortality risk if the sibling had died from a discordant main cause, which may strengthen the possibility that the association observed is not due to confounding alone.

  • 2011. Mikael Rostila. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 41 (3), 308-326

    The emergence of the two facets of social capital, the individual and the collective, has contributed to much of the confusion in the field of social capital. The overall objective of this article is to elaborate on a theoretical model aiming at clarifying some bridges between the facets and dimensions of social capital previously suggested in the literature. Initially, the article shortly presents and discusses some important definitions of social capital. Furthermore, limitations and shortcomings of previous definitions are discussed. Moreover, a theoretical model is elaborated on suggesting that social capital comprises social resources that evolve in accessible social networks or social structures characterized by mutual trust. This model also emphasises some of the potential dark sides of social capital. The presented definition does not definitively address the theoretical uncertainties in the field; however, it suggests that a resource-oriented notion of social capital could be useful in bridging the facets of social capital.

Show all publications by Mikael Rostila at Stockholm University


Last updated: January 13, 2021

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