Short interview

My colleagues Björn Eriksson, Finn Hedefalk and I were interviewed by Lund University Magazine before the summer. The interview is about the funding we have acquired and tips we have for other young researchers. The interview is in Swedish but google translate appears to be doing a good job if you want to read more.

Two new pre-prints out

We’ve published two new working papers.

First, in a paper we’ll submit for review after the summer, Luciana Quaranta, Therese Nilsson and I have explored the long-term consequences of exposure to high disease load in early life for women’s fertility. We’ve looked at a set of indicators such as the birthweight of children, sex ratio at birth (how many boys and girls were born), twinning, and miscarriages. We find evidence that women born in year with high infant mortality (indicating a higher exposure to serious infectious disease in the first year of life) gave birth to fewer boys, who were more likely to be born pre-term, and at higher birthweights. Exposed women might be more likely to have sex-specific spontaneous abortions. In line with this idea, we find that exposed women had a higher likelihood of having had miscarriages and stillbirths. But they don’t have lower fertility over all – maybe because this is a population with birth control where specific family sizes can be targeted.

Second, in a forthcoming chapter Luciana Quaranta, Volha Lazuka and I discuss improvements in infant and maternal health in Sweden in the 20th century. We’ve looked into the factors that helped reduce infant mortality rates. We describe the timeline of when certain medical innovations arrived in Landskrona and it’s rural hinterland, and of changes in how institutional care of pregnant women, young mothers, and care around childbirth was organized. We find that modern healthcare, especially the opening of maternity wards, contributed to the reduction of infant mortality in the town. Nevertheless, mortality rates in the early 20th century were already very low for that period and from an international perspective, possibly because of how midwifery was organized in Sweden.

Hiring a PhD Student

I’m looking for a PhD student interested in demography, families, health and mortality, and long-run change. The position is for four years and fully funded, and in the field of historical demography (PhD in economic history). Applicants should have a relevant MSc degree (history, economics, demography, sociology) and have an interest in longitudinal analysis of micro-level population data. Application deadline is July 4th.

You can find the vacancy here. The position is located at the Centre for Economic Demography, Department of Economic History. The student will be supervised by me and Professor Martin Dribe. The position is part of the research project “Long Live the Family”, funded by Crafoordska Stiftelse, with additional support from the Department of Economic History.

More about the project here.

New project funded!

My project “Long Live the Family – The Rise of Familial Health Advantages in Sweden 1813-2022 has been funded by Crafoordska Stiftelse for 1.8 million SEK (about 170.000 EUR).


The project is motivated by the wide gap in the length of life by socioeconomic status: the social gradient in mortality. In Sweden, this gap in the length of life emerged in about the 1950ies for women and 1970ies for men. Even in the absence of a population-level social gradient in mortality, patterns of health and survival are and were shared in families. Historically, large disparities existed in lifestyle between lower and higher classes, and higher classes in particular had increased risk of lifestyle-related disease related to smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle. In turn, among lower socioeconomic status groups infectious disease mortality may have been relatively higher and persisted longer. Causes of death analyses from historical Sweden confirm this broad picture, but leave open the question when family-shared factors started to contribute to inequalities in mortality. In this project, we identify families with beneficial survival in comparison to the population, and investigate the timing and mechanisms of the emergence of a social gradient in mortality in Sweden. Further, we address how morbidity and mortality in long-lived families are affected by the changing disease environment.

Together with a contribution from the department of Economic History, Crafoordska Stiftelse will fund a four-year PhD position with me at the Centre for Economic Demography / Department of Economic History. Recruitment will start soon and hopefully we’ll recruite a candidate able to start in late August.

Kick-off “An Age Old Advantage?”

And we’ve started!

Last October, Dr. Niels van den Berg (LUMC) and I received funding from Riksbankens Jubileumsfonden to study how exceptional health clusters in families. Now we’re really starting with this project – at least, Niels is. I will start in January, after wrapping up my work in the Landskrona Population Study where I study long-run changes in health in the city.

The next 3 years, Niels and I will study how family-shared SES, lifestyle, and robustness shaped exceptional survival and healthy aging in the past centuries. We’ll use Swedish register data linked to historical records to trace families with a history of exceptional survival, who we’ll follow over time and across generations. Families with histories of exceptional survival have also been traced in the Netherlands where they were interviewed about a range of socioeconomic indicators. We also know about their medicine use, diagnoses from general practitioners, andbiomarkers were collected. Taken together, we can generate a deeper understanding of what drives exceptional good health in families across contexts and time.

For the start of this project (the first where we’re leading!) we managed an in-person meeting, a nice change of pace after 2 years and four months with many online meetings. We also managed a reunion with our longtime collaborator Rick Mourits for overdue celebrations of jobs and papers.

Find out more about the project here.