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Viveca Östberg

About me

Viveca Östberg is a sociologist focussing on health among young people. Her research deals with the influence of social structure and social conditions on health among children and youth. She has published studies on health inequalities by parental education, social class and income. Other studies concern the association between school conditions and health complaints. Here, the focus has been on school as a work environment and as a social arena (e.g. status hierarchies, friendship, bullying). Another area of interest has been the so-called Nordic welfare research where two important questions have been how children's welfare can be described and how information can be collected. In line with this she has worked with the development of Swedish welfare surveys for children and adolescents (Child-LNU and Child-ULF) where representative samples in the ages 10-18 years have been interviewed about their living conditions.

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Childhood vaccination coverage in Australia

    2021. Arzu Arat (et al.). BMC Public Health 21 (1)


    Background: This study describes trends in social inequities in first dose measles-mumps-rubella (MMR1) vaccination coverage in Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW). Using probabilistically-linked administrative data for 1.2 million children born between 2002 and 2011, we compared levels and trends in MMR1 vaccination coverage measured at age 24 months by maternal country of birth, Aboriginal status, maternal age at delivery, socio-economic status, and remoteness in two states.

    Results: Vaccination coverage was 3-4% points lower among children of mothers who gave birth before the age of 20 years, mothers born overseas, mothers with an Aboriginal background, and parents with a low socio-economic status compared to children that did not belong to these social groups. In both states, between 2007 and 2011 there was a decline of 2.1% points in MMR1 vaccination coverage for children whose mothers were born overseas. In 2011, WA had lower coverage among the Aboriginal population (89.5%) and children of young mothers (89.3%) compared to NSW (92.2 and 92.1% respectively).

    Conclusion: Despite overall high coverage of MMR1 vaccination, coverage inequalities increased especially for children of mothers born overseas. Strategic immunisation plans and policy interventions are important for equitable vaccination levels. Future policy should target children of mothers born overseas and Aboriginal children.

    Read more about Childhood vaccination coverage in Australia
  • How do educational disparities in smoking develop during early life? A Swedish longitudinal study

    2021. Laura Wells, Viveca Östberg. SSM - Population Health 15


    Smoking contributes to health inequalities, but how social inequalities in smoking develop in early life remains unclear. This study examines how measures of education attained over the early life course (representing so-cioeconomic position of origin, socioeconomic position of destination, and in-between) contribute to smoking behavior in a Swedish longitudinal sample. We used data obtained from the Swedish Level-of-Living Surveys in addition to national register data. Young adults (aged 20–28, n =749) self-reported their educational attainment and smoking behavior (initiation and cessation) in 2010. Ten years earlier, their parents self-reported their own education and smoking behavior. We used linked register data on school performance in adolescence (in grade 9). Logistic regression models showed that lower parental education, lower adolescent school performance, and low young adult educational attainment were respectively associated with young adult smoking initiation. The association between parental education and young adult smoking initiation was explained by adolescent school performance and not parental smoking. Young adult smoking cessation was associated with high parental ed-ucation and high adolescent school performance (marks in the top quartile), but only school performance remained significant in the final model, which included all measures of education and parental smoking. Results suggest that school performance in adolescence (which connects adolescents’ socioeconomic position of origin with their destination) may play an important role in how educational disparities in smoking form over the life course.   

    Read more about How do educational disparities in smoking develop during early life? A Swedish longitudinal study
  • Exposure to School Bullying and Psychological Health in Young Adulthood

    2017. Viveca Östberg, Bitte Modin, Sara Låftman Brolin. Journal of School Violence


    Being bullied at school is strongly related to psychological health complaints at the same time point. Studies have also found long-term associations, but few have combined a prospective design with children’s own reports on bullying, and conducted gender-specific analyses. The present study assesses health consequences in young adulthood of self-reported victimization in adolescence using data from Child-LNU in 2000 and the follow-up in 2010 (including 63% of the original sample, n = 813). At ages 10–18 a clear cross-sectional association was found for both girls and boys. Among girls, exposure to bullying also predicted psychological complaints 10 years later, at ages 20–28 (OR = 2.86). This association was not explained by socioeconomic circumstances, neither in adolescence nor in young adulthood. Instead, it can partly be understood as victimization, among adolescent girls, being associated with negative self-image and psychological health as well as with deficits in social resources more generally.

    Read more about Exposure to School Bullying and Psychological Health in Young Adulthood
  • The Complexity of Stress in Mid-Adolescent Girls and Boys

    2015. Viveca Östberg (et al.). Child Indicators Research 8 (2), 403-423


    In many Western countries adolescents, especially girls, report high levels of stress and stress-related health complaints. In this study we investigate the concept of stress in a group of 14-15 year-olds (grade 8 in two Stockholm schools) using a multiple methods approach. The aim is to analyse stress, and gender differences in stress, as indicated by a measure of perceived stress (questionnaires, n = 212), the diurnal variation in the biomarker cortisol (saliva samples, n = 108) and the students' own accounts of stress (semi-structured interviews, n = 49). The results were generated within the traditional framework of each method and integrated at the point of interpretation. The hypothesis that adolescent girls experience more stress than boys was confirmed by all methods used. In the questionnaire, the most commonly experienced aspects of perceived stress were the same among girls and boys, but girls consistently reported higher frequencies. The saliva samples showed that girls had greater cortisol output in the morning. In the individual semi-structured interviews, girls and boys discussed stress in similar ways but both acknowledged a gender gap to the disadvantage of girls. The results as a whole suggests an interpretation of gender differences that focuses girls' attitudes, perceived expectations and coping strategies in relation to school performance, with their focus on achievement, marks, hard work, and worries about the future. The findings point to a need of an increased awareness about the role of perceived expectations in the stress process, and that these expectations and their impact on stress may differ by the gender of the student.

    Read more about The Complexity of Stress in Mid-Adolescent Girls and Boys
  • Studying Young People's Level of Living

    2010. Jan O. Jonsson, Viveca Östberg. Child Indicators Research 3 (1), 47-64


    We propose a strategy for studying the level of living of young people based on survey information from children themselves, combined with information from parents and administrative records. In this way, children become the prime informants of their own conditions, at the same time as we get reliable information on their family context, such as the household economy and parental characteristics, from other sources. We base our over-arching theoretical idea on a definition of level of living in terms of command over resources in several areas of life; resources with which children can actively shape their own lives, according to age and maturity. The focus on scope of action leads us to prefer descriptive rather than evaluative indicators. We define empirical indicators along eight broad dimensions of the level of living of young people which we use in a survey of 10–18-year-olds, the Swedish Child-LNU (n = 1,304, response rate = 76,6%), connected to the Level-of-Living Survey, LNU2000, done on adults, i.e., the children’s parents. We report descriptive results showing that the overall level of living of young people in Sweden is very high, but that children to lone parents and immigrants lag behind on some indicators. A worry for the future is the relatively high incidence of poor psychological well-being and psychosomatic problems.

    Read more about Studying Young People's Level of Living

Show all publications by Viveca Östberg at Stockholm University