Ulf Lundberg, porträtt. Foto: Hans Bergman

Ulf Lundberg

Professor emeritus

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Works at Department of Psychology
Visiting address Frescati hagväg 14
Postal address Psykologiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

2000-2014 Professor at Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Stockholm University and Karolinska institutet.
1990-2010 Professor of Biological Psychology, Stockholm University.
1990-2010 Head, Division of Biological Psychology and the Stress Hormone Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.
1981 Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Medical Psychology, Uniformed Services, University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
1976 Associate professor (docent), Stockholm University.
1972-1990 Researcher, Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.
1972 Ph.D. in Psychology, Stockholm University.



1999-2006 Editor-in-Chief: International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
1994-1999 Associate Editor: International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
1990- Editorial Board: Motivation and Emotion; Journal of Gender, Culture and Health; Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health.
1994-2006 Executive Committee and Governing Council, International Society of Behavioral Medicine.
1994-2010 Board Member, Swedish Society of Behavioral Medicine.
1998-2007 Scientific Advisory Board, Swedish Psychological Association.
1999-2009 Board Member, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University.
2000-2009 Board Member, Centre for Health Equity Studies, Stockholm University.
2003-2007 Scientific Advisory Board, Institute for Stress Medicine, Göteborg.



Psychobiological aspects of stress, behavioral medicine:

Opponent at doctoral dissertations in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Holland.

Responsible for three courses for graduate students: Behavioral Medicine and Women, Evolutionary Psychology, Psychobiological stress responses.

Participating as organizer and teacher in Nordic courses for graduate students (NIVA) in Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Supervised 15 graduate students to PhD-examination.

Stress from a psychobiological perspective, undergraduate course at B level, attracting about 100 students per year.



The general aim of the research program is to identify psychosocial, behavioral and biological factors linking psychosocial and socioeconomic conditions to well-being and health risks in men and women. Research integrates theories and methods from biomedicine, psychophysiology and social psychology. Experimental studies are performed in the laboratory and complemented by studies of occupational groups in their natural settings.

An ongoing long term project concerns the relationship between psychosocial factors, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine stress responses and musculoskeletal disorders. The research is focused on: (1) socioeconomic status and health, (2) work and health, and (3) psychobiological aspects of women's health.



1999-2002 Partner in European Union Network: Prevention of Muscular Disorders in Operation of Computer Input Devices (PROCID).
1998-1999 Participated in the Allostatic Load Group (chair: Bruce McEwen, New York), part of the MacArthur Foundation Network on SES and Health.
1983-1989 Member of J.D. & C.T. MacArthur Network on Health Promoting and Health Damaging Behavior, Chicago, USA.


Referee for positions as professor and associate professor in Sweden and Norway.

Scientific presentations at more than one hundred international conferences, several keynote presentations.

Interviewed as expert in television in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.



A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2017. Gunnar Aronsson, Ulf Lundberg.

    Rehabilitering och samordning, Rehsam, var ett forskningsprogram som initierades av regeringen år 2009. Målet var att öka den evidensbaserade kunskapsmassan kring rehabilitering av personer som är sjukskrivna, eller riskerar att bli sjukskrivna, på grund av psykiska eller muskuloskeletala problem. Denna rapport är en sammanfattande utvärdering av Rehsamprogrammet.

    Som en uppföljning av Rehsam-satsningen fick Forte 2014 bland annat i uppdrag att göra en vetenskaplig kvalitetsbedömning av den forskning som genomförts inom Rehsam-satsningen. Detta uppdrag har genomförts i olika etapper, med två delrapporter under 2015. Den här utvärderingen omfattar 21 projekt och är en slutrapport av uppdraget.

    Sammanfattningsvis visar Rehsam-projektens resultat att projekt som omfattar insatser på arbetsplatsen är mer effektiva än de projekt som inte genomfört arbetsplats-interventioner. Tendensen är även att projekt med högre vetenskaplig kvalitet oftare har signifikanta utfall.

  • 2016. Ulf Lundberg, Gunnar Aronsson. På jakt efter framtidens arbete, 91-93
  • 2014. Ulf Lundberg.

    The Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU) conducted a systematic literature review of research on the association between occupational exposures and back disorders. In this review, we use back disorders as an umbrella term to include the more specific terms back trouble (a subjective experience of pain, ache or discomfort in the back), symptoms of sciatica, intervertebral disc changes and diseases of the back. The report is focused on disorders of the thoracic and lumbar spine. A wide range of occupational exposures were investigated, including: physical work load, vibration, organizational and psychosocial factors, chemical and biological factors, noise, environmental factors and contagious substances.

    Background: Since 2011 SBU has had a mandate from the Swedish government to systematically assess the evidence associating occupational exposures to health issues. The objective of this review was to assess the scientific basis describing the influence of occupational exposures on back disorders. Back disorders are common. Between 60 and 70 percent of the general population world-wide suffer from back pain at least once in their life. For affected individuals, back disorders are the source of both suffering and decreased functioning. The costs to society are also considerable in terms of direct health care costs, financial support to individuals with work disability, as well as costs due to loss of production.

    Method: A systematic review was undertaken following the PRISMA statement and standard methods used by SBU adapted to an occupational context. A literature search covering years 1980 to January 2014 was conducted in international medical and occupational data bases. The review assessed almost 8 000 abstracts. Studies that fulfilled strict inclusion criteria were assessed for relevance and quality, using pre-set protocols. Relevance and quality assessments were conducted by two experts, working in an evaluation pair. After conducting independent assessments, the two experts had to agree on a mutual relevance and quality classification. Some articles required that all exporters participated in discussion and made a collective assessment. A total of 109 studies were classified as moderate or high quality, representing more than 150 000 study participants. The strength of the scientific evidence was assessed with the GRADE system.

    Results: There is an association between occupational exposure and back disorders. This result is based on investigations of a large variety of work environments, mainly in Europe and North America. In most studies passing the quality criteria, researchers investigated occupational exposure and back disorders in populations consisting of both women and men with at least one year of follow up.

    Conclusions: People in the following groups develop more back trouble over time than those who are not subjected to the specified exposure at work:

    – Those who work with manual handling (e.g. lift) or in a posture where the back is bent or rotated

    – Those who work in a kneeling or squatting posture, or have physically demanding work tasks

    – Those exposed to whole body vibration

    – Those who experience work as mentally stressful; or those who find their work demanding, but lack decision latitude (personal control of their own working situation); or those who have insufficient opportunities for personal development

    – Those who work outside standard office hours.

    In some work environments, people have less back trouble. Those who experience high influence over work-related decisions, those who get social support at work and those with high job satisfaction develop less back trouble than others.

    Women and men with similar occupational exposures develop back troubles to the same extent.

    Those who work in forward bent postures or are exposed to whole body vibration in their work develop more symptoms of sciatica than others, while those with high job satisfaction develop less such symptoms. Those whose work entails manual handling develop more intervertebral disc changes than others.

    This systematic literature review has uncovered a substantial body of knowledge concerning occupational exposures and back disorders. Future research should include intervention studies, i.e. studies that scientifically test the effect of well defined interventions on back disorders over extended periods of time in authentic work situations.

    Project group

    Experts: Karin Harms-Ringdahl (Chair), Sven Ove Hanson (Ethics), Olle Hägg, Ulf Lundberg, Svend Erik Mathiasen, Gunnevi Sundelin, Magnus Svartengren, and Hans Tropp.

    SBU: Charlotte Hall (Project Director), Karin Stenström (Assistant Project Director), Agneta Brolund (Information Specialist), Therese Kedebring (Project Administrator), Laura Lintamo (Investigator), Maria Skogholm (Project Administrator), Lena Wallgren (Scientific Writer)

    Scientific reviewers: Eva Denison, Mats Hagberg, Gunnar Nemeth, Esa-Pekka Takala.

  • 2014. Ulf Lundberg. Psykisk hälsa 55 (4), 22-29

    Stressrelaterad ohälsa svarar för en stor del av sjukfrånvaron i Sverige och medför således omfattande kostnader för samhället och stort lidande för dem som drabbas. I denna artikel beskrivs vilka faktorer i det moderna samhället som bidrar till ökad stressbelastning och vad som händer i kroppen som kan förklara olika stressrelaterade hälsoproblem, både psykiska och fysiska, hos kvinnor och män. Vidare beskrivs vanliga stressymtom och möjligheter att förebygga dessa.

  • 2013. P.J. Mork (et al.). Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 42 (6), 505-508

    Objectives: To investigate heart rate variability (HRV) in fibromyalgia (FM) patients and healthy controls (HCs) during different sleep stages, and to examine the association of HRV with pain and sleep quality.

    Method: Polysomnography was recorded from 23 female FM patients and 22 age- and sex-matched HCs. HRV was recorded from bedtime until awakening including the standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN), the root mean square successive difference (RMSSD), and the low (LF; 0.04–0.15 Hz) and high (HF; 0.15–0.4 Hz) frequency power. Subjective scores of neck/shoulder pain and sleep quality were obtained at bedtime and awakening.

    Results: Both patients and HCs showed high incidence of arousals per hour (FM: 16 ± 9.7; HCs: 17 ± 11). RMSSD was lower in patients than HCs during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) stage 2 (N2) sleep (mean ± SD; 30 ± 12 ms vs. 42 ± 13 ms, p < 0.002) and during REM sleep (23 ± 11 ms vs. 37 ± 16 ms, p < 0.003). HRV did not differ between groups during N3 sleep (p > 0.19 for all comparisons). In patients, SDNN, RMSSD, and HF power showed modest positive correlations with sleep quality (HF power during N3 sleep showed the highest correlation; Spearman’s ρ = 0.54) and modest negative correlations with neck/shoulder pain (RMSSD during N3 sleep showed the highest correlation with pain at bedtime; Spearman’s ρ = –0.51).

    Conclusions: RMSSD, indicative of parasympathetic predominance, is attenuated in FM patients compared to HCs during N2 sleep and REM sleep. This difference was not present for the HF component. HRV during sleep in FM patients is moderately and positively associated with sleep quality and moderately and negatively associated with neck/shoulder pain

  • 2013. Petra Lindfors, Ulf Lundberg. Att studera människors utveckling - resultat från forskningsprogrammet IDA 1965-2013, 151-170
  • 2013. Ulf Lundberg. Stress, 226-233

    Om boken på förlagets hemsida: Stora grupper av människor riskerar idag att drabbas av social jetlag - att leva i ett tomrum där de är fysiskt uppkopplade men inte socialt, emotionellt och intellektuellt upplever ett sammanhang. Nytt i denna upplaga är beskrivningen av strategier för att motverka detta och för att öka vår egen och arbetslivets motståndskraft mot stress. Här presenteras både beprövade och helt nya metoder för en effektiv stressbehandling på individ-, grupp-, organisations- och samhällsnivå.

  • 2013. Rolf Harald Westgaard (et al.). BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 14, 97

    Background: Muscle activity and pain development of fibromyalgia (FM) patients in response to mental stress show inconsistent results, when compared to healthy controls (HCs). A possible reason for the inconsistent results is the large variation in stress exposures in different studies. This study compares muscle responses of FM patients and HCs for different modes and levels of imposed stress, to elucidate features in stress exposures that distinguish stress responses of FM patients from HCs. Methods: Upper trapezius (clavicular and acromial fibers), deltoid, and biceps surface electromyographic (sEMG) activity was recorded in FM patients (n=26) and HCs (n=25). Heart rate (HR) was recorded and used as indicator of autonomic activation. Tests included inspiratory breath holding (sympathetic activation procedure), mental stress tests (color-word test and backward counting; 28 min), instructed rest prior to stress test (30 min TV watching), and controlled arm movement. sEMG and HR was also recorded during an unrestrained evening stay at a patient hotel. The 5-min period with lowest trapezius muscle activity was determined. Pain (shoulder/neck, low back pain) and perceived tension were scored on VAS scales at the start and the end of the stress test and at bedtime. Results: Trapezius sEMG responses of FM patients were significantly higher than HCs during sympathetic activation, mental stress, and instructed rest, but similar during arm movement and unrestrained evening activity. HR of FM patients and HCs was similar during mental stress and in the evening, including the 5-min period with lowest trapezius activity. Muscle activity of FM patients during the stress test (with shoulder/neck pain development) and the evening stay (no pain development) was similar. Conclusions: FM patients show elevated muscle activity (in particular trapezius activity) in situations with imposed stress, including sympathetic activation, and putative anticipatory stress. Muscle activity and HR were similar to HCs in instructed arm movement and in a situation approaching low-stress daily living. Pain development of FM patients during the stress test may be due to activation of several stress-associated physiological systems, and not obviously caused by muscle activity in isolation.

Show all publications by Ulf Lundberg at Stockholm University

Last updated: November 30, 2018

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