Sven Drefahl. Photo: Stockholm University

Sven Drefahl

Lecturer, Docent

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Works at Department of Sociology
Telephone 08-16 22 87
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 B, plan 9
Room B 868
Postal address Sociologiska institutionen, Demografiska avdelningen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Sven Drefahl is Associate Professor (Docent) in Demography. He studies the relationship between family characteristics, migration and mortality, mainly using Nordic population-register data. He is also interested in the mortality and health of the ageing population and international trends of health and mortality. As member of the "Aging-Well" project he also works with agent-based microsimulation models.

For his CV and more details please also check his personal website(Click here)


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Sunnee Billingsley, Sven Drefahl, Gebrenegus Ghilagaber. Social Science Research 75, 73-82

    In social mobility research, the diagonal reference model (DRM) is argued to best isolate the effect of social mobility from origin and destination status effects. In demographic research, standard analyses of the duration until an event occurs rely heavily on the appropriate use of covariates that change over time. We apply these best-practice methods to the study of social mobility and demographic outcomes in Sweden using register data that covers the years 1996–2012. The mortality analysis includes 1,024,142 women and 747,532 men and the fertility analysis includes 191,142 women and 164,368 men. We identify the challenges inherent in this combination and present strategies with an application to how social mobility is related to both fertility and mortality. Our application is successful at incorporating all requirements related to these methods. Our findings suggest, however, that certain data characteristics, such as a relatively high share of missing data, can be problematic. We also find that controlling for origin and destination status generally provides acceptable estimates of the mobility association in the specific case of Sweden and the relationship between social mobility and both fertility and mortality.

  • 2017. Gunnar Andersson, Sven Drefahl. Population, Space and Place 23 (4)

    International migrants often have lower mortality rates than the native populations in their new host countries. Several explanations have been proposed, but in the absence of data covering the entire life courses of migrants both before and after each migration event, it is difficult to assess the validity of different explanations. In the present study, we apply hazard regressions to Swedish register data to study the mortality of long-distance migrants from Northern to Southern Sweden as well as the mortality of return migrants to the North. In this way, we can study a situation that at least partly resembles that of international migration while still having access to data covering the full demographic biographies of all migrants. This allows us to test the relative roles of salmon bias and healthy migrant status in observed mortality rates of long-distance migrants. We find no mortality differentials between residents in northern and southern Sweden, and no evidence of a selection of healthy migrants from the North to the South. In contrast, we provide clear evidence of salmon effects' in terms of elevated mortality of the return migrants to northern Sweden, which are produced when migrants return to their place of origin in relation to subsequent death.

  • 2014. Sven Drefahl, Anders Ahlbom, Karin Modig. PLoS ONE 9 (2), e88357

    Background: In the beginning of the 1970s, Sweden was the country where both women and men enjoyed the world's longest life expectancy. While life expectancy continues to be high and increasing, Sweden has been losing ground in relation to other leading countries. Methods: We look at life expectancy over the years 1970-2008 for men and women. To assess the relative contributions of age, causes of death, and smoking we decompose differences in life expectancy between Sweden and two leading countries, Japan and France. This study is the first to use this decomposition method to observe how smoking related deaths contribute to life expectancy differences between countries. Results: Sweden has maintained very low mortality at young and working ages for both men and women compared to France and Japan. However, mortality at ages above 65 has become considerably higher in Sweden than in the other leading countries because the decrease has been faster in those countries. Different trends for circulatory diseases were the largest contributor to this development in both sexes but for women also cancer played a role. Mortality from neoplasms has been considerably low for Swedish men. Smoking attributable mortality plays a modest role for women, whereas it is substantially lower in Swedish men than in French and Japanese men. Conclusions: Sweden is losing ground in relation to other leading countries with respect to life expectancy because mortality at high ages improves more slowly than in the leading countries, especially due to trends in cardiovascular disease mortality. Trends in smoking rates may provide a partial explanation for the trends in women; however, it is not possible to isolate one single explanatory factor for why Sweden is losing ground.

  • 2012. Sven Drefahl. Journal of Marriage and Family 74 (3), 462-475

    Numerous studies have shown that married women and men experience the lowest mortality. Legal marital status, however, does not necessarily reflect today's social reality because individuals are classified as never married, widowed, or divorced even when they are living with a partner. Denmark is one of the forerunners of developments in coresidential partnerships and one of only a few countries where administrative sources provide individual-level information on cohabitation for the whole population. Using register information from Statistics Denmark on 3,888,072 men and women ages 18–65, the author investigated mortality differences by living arrangement with hazard regression models. Overall, premature mortality was found to be lowest for married persons, followed by cohabiting persons. Adjusting for socioeconomic status reduced excess mortality of nonmarried individuals. Moreover, a mortality-crossover effect emerged in which cohabiters with above-average socioeconomic status had a lower risk of dying than married people. This finding was particularly pronounced for men.

  • 2010. Sven Drefahl. Demography 47 (2), 313-326

    I use hazard regression methods to examine how the age difference between spouses affects their survival. In many countries, the age difference between spouses at marriage has remained relatively stable for several decades. In Denmark, men are, on average, about three years older than the women they marry. Previous studies of the age gap between spouses with respect to mortality found that having a younger spouse is beneficial, while having an older spouse is detrimental for one's own survival. Most of the observed effects could not be explained satisfactorily until now, mainly because of methodological drawbacks and insufficiency of the data. The most common explanations refer to selection effects, caregiving in later life, and some positive psychological and sociological effects of having a younger spouse. The present study extends earlier work by using longitudinal Danish register data that include the entire history of key demographic events of the whole population from 1990 onward. Controlling for confounding factors such as education and wealth, results suggest that having a younger spouse is beneficial for men but detrimental for women, while having an older spouse is detrimental for both sexes.

Show all publications by Sven Drefahl at Stockholm University

Last updated: December 24, 2019

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