Department of Sociology

The different aspects of health:

Relations between mortality, morbidity, functional status and subjective health in European populations

Primary investigator: Professor Ilkka Henrik Mäkinen

Collaborating Partners: Postdoctoral researcher Liubov V. Borisova, Uppsala University;

PhD student Aija Duntava, Uppsala University

Funding source: 2015 – 2017 Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council)

Definitions and understandings of health are at the core of this research project. Health is a complex notion, and its definition is highly disputed upon. In medical sociology several measures are ordinarily used for reflecting “health”: mortalitymorbidityfunctional status, and subjective health among them. In the absence of a consensual definition, it seems for us relevant to analyze the relationships between these aspects of health empirically in order to shed some light onto the meaning of health overall.

Hence, the project pursues three main goals:

  • to understand the macro-level links between mortality, morbidity, functional status, and subjective health better;
  • to investigate the links between morbidity, functional status, and subjective health at the individual level; and
  • to establish the possible contextual interaction effects on the individual-level relationships analyzed above.

These goals are addressed in the four main studies, which require different methodologies due to their diverse settings. The first study reviews the literature in the field and comes up with a systematic theoretical background for the rest of the studies, and especially with notions of the theoretical focal points in the form of paradoxical expectations, unexpected empirical relationships, etc. The methods of the next three empirical studies will be mostly quantitative: factor analysis, structural equation modelling, and multilevel analysis performed on mostly secondary data from publicly available surveys and datasets. We aim to concentrate, on both macro and micro levels, in the diverse measurements of health and their possible determinants. In order to pursue these goals, both international aggregate-level statistics and aggregated data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and other large international surveys are studied.

This project’s significance lies in, first, furthering our knowledge about the notion of health by providing empirical evidence on the underlying interrelationships between its constituent parts. Secondly, the relationships between the aspects of health have rarely been analyzed, and in this respect the scale and depth of the proposed study is unprecedented.