© Anu Korhonen

Sociology is a fundamental social science discipline that studies social structures and their changes as well as social activities, values and attitudes. The focus points range from globalisation and entire societies to intimate social relationships. The topics of sociology depend on the societies studied: current research topics include immigration and integration, urban life, the use of media and technologies, financial inequality and the emergence of financial crises. Other important topics include social movements and participation; inequality in health care and other sectors; dependencies; childhood and adolescence; institutions, organisations and communities such as families, cities and the welfare state; as well as social interaction and social networks.


Why do highly educated women have fewer children? Why do those with high incomes live longer? Why do young people follow in their parents’ footsteps when choosing their education? Why is illness more prevalent among widows? Why do social and economic disadvantages seem to be transmitted from one generation to another? Demographic research aims to answer these and many other socially important questions by studying the factors that separate and unite population groups with the help of survey and interview data, population registers and many other statistical resources.

Formal demography looks at the scope and structure of the population as well as births, deaths and migration. Social demography investigates the impact of social factors on health, education, retirement and immigration, as well as the impact of these factors on society in general. The emphasis is less on which social phenomena are actually studied and more on how they are studied. Demographers strive to establish how common a phenomenon is and what social and other factors underlie it.

What is sociology?

The focus points of sociology range from globalisation and entire societies to intimate social relationships. Current research topics include social structures and their changes; citizen movements and participation; inequality in health; dependencies; childhood and adolescence; institutions, organisations and communities such as families, cities and the welfare state; social activity, interaction and social networks; as well as people’s values, attitudes and manners of speaking.

The sociological approach makes it possible to question everyday notions and to consciously distance oneself from customary patterns of thought. Because the perspectives and research results of sociology delve deeper than conventional views, reveal hidden problems and highlight new alternatives, sociology has powerful critical potential. For the same reasons, it is also useful for decision-making and planning, which both require accurate information.

Sociology is a broad social science discipline. Its key areas include theory and research relating to social structures and social activities. Each student must explore in detail at least two research fields of general sociology, such as urban sociology or the sociology of the family. The goal is for sociology graduates to be able to independently acquire and analyse information on social phenomena and to use and apply it in various duties.

The discipline of sociology has several ongoing research projects that focus on different themes. Many projects are carried out together with other fields and universities.

Current research focus areas include

  • Addictions and compulsive gambling
  • Urban studies, including regional segregation and the social structures of neighbourhoods
  • The social circumstances of immigrants
  • Youth and ageing
  • Conversation analysis of social interaction
  • Sociology and social theory
  • The causes and effects of health differences

Discipline coordinator: Professor Eeva Luhtakallio


For more information about research and grant-funded researchers, see the University of Helsinki research portal.

More research projects involving the discipline are listed in the research portal

The discipline of sociology explores a wide range of social phenomena, which enables it to offer a broad study programme to Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral students. In addition to Finnish- and Swedish-language programmes, the discipline is also involved in the English-language Master’s Programme in Contemporary Societies. Students can also complete studies in the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning. Moreover, Master’s students can choose the Study Track of Demography.

The education provides the knowledge and skills needed to work in planning, administration and statistics, as teachers in adult education, and as journalists and other communications specialists. Many sociologists also work as researchers or experts in support of decision-making.

Degree programmes that offer teaching in sociology

​​​​​​​Postal and street address for sociology

PO Box 18 (Unioninkatu 35)
00014 University of Helsinki

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