ERC Advanced grant
Research on Social Inequalities in Health at the Population Research Unit.
Research aims

Despite increasing life expectancy and overall improvement in population health, social inequalities in health have grown markedly over the past 30 years, with those in less advantaged social positions expected to live 5–10 years less than those in advantaged positions. We aim to establish the root causes of these inequalities by;


1. Assessing the drivers of long-term changes in health inequalities and establishing the contribution of family factors and macro-level social and economic conditions to these changes

2. Examining multigenerational interdependencies of social position and health in up to four generations

3. Estimating the causal effects of social position on health by exploiting natural experiments and molecular genetic information

4. Assessing whether genetic associations are mediated or modified by social position

5. Examining changes in area and neighbourhood level inequalities in health and their underlying drivers 

6. Modelling the transitions of the population through different health states conditional on socioeconomic and family characteristics to estimate future burden of long-term care and multi-morbidity

7. Evaluating the generalisability of explanations of social inequalities in health through international comparative research

8. Creating the basis for better design, methodology and analyses of genetically informed and family data for research into social inequalities in health


Data and methods

We go beyond standard observational social and epidemiological research by using a unique combination of longitudinal register-based and genetically informed data, natural experimental designs, and advanced dynamic modelling techniques.

In the absence of randomised trials, family-based and genetically informed studies permit some of the strongest causal inference possible. Coupled with information on major policy reforms, rapid economic changes, and international comparisons our analyses will help us identify pivotal social processes and macro-contexts in the production of health inequalities.


Drawing on cutting-edge methods and world-class data we integrate research scattered in multiple disciplines. Our results are ground-breaking because we will establish how family and genetic factors are intertwined with individual social characteristics and how they manifest in health outcomes in different macro-level social conditions. The power to test causal hypotheses will advance science and help devise policies to reduce health inequalities.

Reliable scientific research will support decision-making, help allocate scarse resources more efficiently, and thus reduce health care costs and increases working life expectancy in ageing populations.


We collaborate domestically with the Department of Public Health and FIMM (at the University of Helsinki), and University of Eastern Finland and Tampere and many non-academic organizations such as THL, Finnish Center for Pensions, ETLA, the Institute for Occupational Health.

Our international co-authors come from e.g. University of Pennsylvania,; London School of Economics and Political Science; University College London; University of Oxford, Princeton University, University of Stockholm; University of Bristol; Erasmus University Rotterdam, as well as the Max Planck Institute for Demography.

Beyond research into health we collaborate with demographically motivated analyses of the social determinants of crime, family change, social mobility and political participation.

Grant agreement

European Research Council Advanced Grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101019329).