Töres Theorell

Töres Theorell

Professor emeritus

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Visiting address Frescati Hagväg 16 A
Room 323a
Postal address Stressforskningsinstitutet 106 91 Stockholm

About me

As a retired professor Töres doesn’t take PI responsibility for new projects but he is still active in several projects at the Institute, in particular those based upon the epidemiological data base slosh. He doesn’t take any new doctoral students and has only one doctoral student left, Annica Kempe (child delivery and maternal mortality in Yemen). During later years he has established collaboration with Fredrik Ullén, professor of neurobiology at the Karolinska Institute. A large project within that collaboration which Ullén has the main responsibility for, is the study of musicality and how this can relate to emotional competence and its opposite alexithymia as well as to psychosocial factors. This project is supported mainly by the Tercentenary Fund (Jubileumsfonden) and is based mainly on the Swedish Twin Registry. Töres has initially been responsible for the Swedish part of an international project entitled IPD and is still a member of that network. Hugo Westerlund is now the Swedish leader of that project. A number of cohort studies in Europe have been merged for the examination of psychosocial work environment factors in relation to somatic and mental illnesses (the demand control support model as well as the effort reward imbalance model, long working hours, insecure employment). The number of participants in this study is in the order of 160 000 from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium. This study has made it possible to study these relationships in subgroups of the populations. Mika Kivimäki in Finland has the main responsibility for the whole IPD study. Töres has also had the main responsibility for the Swedish part of another international study namely a study of health effects for employees of downsizing with participation from Sweden, France, Hungary and Great Britain (PI for the whole study Harvey M Brenner). He has previously been active in priority committees in the Swedish scientific councils and was an expert in the governmental commission on public health 1998-2000. During recent years he has been the chairman of three governmental expert committees (SBU) for examining the scientific evidence of a relationship between different aspects of the work environment on one hand and depressive symptoms, exhaustion, coronary heart disease and stroke.

He has participated in the publication of more than 450 original scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and he has also been the editor of textbooks. Among his more successful books are Karasek RA and Theorell T Healthy Work (Basic Books) 1990,  Theorell T Psychological health effects of musical experiences (Springer) 2014, and Romanowska J, Nyberg A and Theorell T Developing leadership and employee health through the arts (Springer) 2016

Education: MD PhD, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Profile and projects in the Research Database


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • Cecilia U.D. Stenfors (et al.). BMC Psychology
  • Cecilia U.D. Stenfors (et al.). PLoS ONE
  • 2018. Raphael M. Herr (et al.). International Journal of Audiology 57 (11), 816-824

    Objective: Hearing problems are a significant public health concern. It has been suggested that psychological distress may represent both a cause and a consequence of hearing problems. Prospective data that allow testing such potential bi-directionality have thus far been lacking. The present study aimed to address this knowledge gap. Random (RE) and fixed effects (FE) panel regression models estimated the association of psychological distress (GHQ-12) and participant-reported hearing problems. Data from 18 annual waves of the British Household Panel Survey were used (n = 10,008). Psychological distress was prospectively associated with self-reported hearing problems in women (multivariable odds ratios (ORs) >= 1.44; one-year time lag >= 1.16) and men (ORs >= 1.15; time lag >= 1.17). Conversely, self-reported hearing problems were associated with increases in psychological distress in both sexes (OR >= 1.26; time lag >= 1.08). These associations were independent of the analytical strategy and of adjustment for sociodemographic variables, lifestyle factors, and measurement period. We present first evidence of a bidirectional association between psychological distress and self-reported hearing problems. These findings suggest that stress management interventions may contribute to the prevention of self-reported hearing problems, and, in turn, alleviating self-reported hearing problems may reduce psychological distress.

  • 2018. Mika Kivimäki (et al.). Alzheimer's & Dementia 14 (5), 601-609

    Introduction: Higher midlife body mass index (BMI) is suggested to increase the risk of dementia, but weight loss during the preclinical dementia phase may mask such effects.

    Methods: We examined this hypothesis in 1,349,857 dementia-free participants from 39 cohort studies. BMI was assessed at baseline. Dementia was ascertained at follow-up using linkage to electronic health records (N = 6894). We assumed BMI is little affected by preclinical dementia when assessed decades before dementia onset and much affected when assessed nearer diagnosis.

    Results: Hazard ratios per 5-kg/m2 increase in BMI for dementia were 0.71 (95% confidence interval = 0.66-0.77), 0.94 (0.89-0.99), and 1.16 (1.05-1.27) when BMI was assessed 10 years, 10-20 years, and >20 years before dementia diagnosis.

    Conclusions: The association between BMI and dementia is likely to be attributable to two different processes: a harmful effect of higher BMI, which is observable in long follow-up, and a reverse-causation effect that makes a higher BMI to appear protective when the follow-up is short.

  • 2018. Marianna Virtanen (et al.). Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 44 (3), 239-250

    Objectives This systematic review and meta-analysis combined published study-level data and unpublished individual-participant data with the aim of quantifying the relation between long working hours and the onset of depressive symptoms.

    Methods We searched PubMed and Embase for published prospective cohort studies and included available cohorts with unpublished individual-participant data. We used a random-effects meta-analysis to calculate summary estimates across studies.

    Results We identified ten published cohort studies and included unpublished individual-participant data from 18 studies. In the majority of cohorts, long working hours was defined as working >= 55 hours per week. In multivariable-adjusted meta-analyses of 189 729 participants from 35 countries [96 275 men, 93 454 women, follow-up ranging from 1-5 years, 21 747 new-onset cases), there was an overall association of 1.14 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-1.25] between long working hours and the onset of depressive symptoms, with significant evidence of heterogeneity (I-2 = 45.1%, P=0.004). A strong association between working hours and depressive symptoms was found in Asian countries (1.50, 95% CI 1.13-2.01), a weaker association in Europe (1.11, 95% CI 1.00-1.22), and no association in North America (0.97, 95% CI 0.70-1.34) or Australia (0.95, 95% CI 0.70-1.29). Differences by other characteristics were small.

    Conclusions This observational evidence suggests a moderate association between long working hours and onset of depressive symptoms in Asia and a small association in Europe.

Show all publications by Töres Theorell at Stockholm University

Last updated: January 17, 2019

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