Why do some people gain weight while others do not? Karri Silventoinen studies health differences between people and countries

The professor of social inequalities in health is familiar with future trends in public health.

What are your research topics?

A central part of my research is associated with the health of the population and related risk factors. I am especially interested in global health differences and how social and biological factors together impact human health. I have also combined these themes in the research project I am heading, where twin datasets collected in 24 countries have been collated and analysed.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact? 

Genetic differences have a great effect on why some people gain weight more easily than others. However, exercise and beneficial social surroundings can block the effect of genes that predispose people to obesity. Particularly in families with a propensity to weight gain it is important to encourage children to exercise and establish an environment that also supports a healthy lifestyle in other ways. This can be promoted through research.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now? 

International comparisons have inspired me ever since I wrote my doctoral dissertation. In recent years, I have collaborated a great deal with researchers in East Asia, especially in Japan but also in China and South Korea. The prosperous industrial nations in East Asia, and those that are rapidly becoming prosperous, provide, in many ways, an interesting point of comparison for Europe and the United States. At the same time, they help challenge many conventional lines of reasoning. 


Karri Silventoinen is a professor of social inequalities in health at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

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