Psychosocial health

Humans are holistic beings that combine physical, psychological, social, and according to some theories, spiritual dimension of health, all taking place in an interaction between environment.

For years we have been engaged in international scientific collaboration studying the role of social and socioeconomic structures in health and wellbeing. This line of research can be called social epidemiology. We have also examined some common aspects of life, such as work and sleep, to get some new information on how they shape human health.

Another significant multidisciplinary contact point in our epidemiologic research are psychophysiological studies, earlier often referred to as psychosomatics. In this line of research we examine the complex and interesting interplay between psychological factors, personality characteristics, and psychiatric health disorders on one hand, and somatic health concerns and changes in certain biomarkers on the other.

Addictions and in Finland especially alcohol are very central public health issues. Population based research in alcohol epidemiology has been strong in our Institution since 1990’s. We participated in the four-year Addiction Research Programme funded by the Academy of Finland. We take a look at the health implications of alcohol consumption and drinking patterns among middle-aged and ageing people. On the other hand, we have also looked for determinants of alcohol use and ways of using alcohol in those ages. We have also taken a lifecourse approach to recent alcohol drinking patterns by making use of historical health registries from 1930’s through 1950’s (Uef electronic publications: Laura Kauhanen, Childhood determinants of later health).

We also conduct research on illicit drug use and the its impact on health. The natural course of drug addictions, and factors among drug users that predict health events have been studied in the HUUTI-project, which is led by Professor Jussi Kauhanen. The large project also included pharmacological part, led by Professor Jari Tiihonen (Forensic Psychiatry).

The epidemiologic HUUTI study consists of almost 5,000 drug users, mainly from the greater Helsinki Metropolitan area. The subjects have been seeking care for drug-related problems the services provided by m the Helsinki Deaconess Institute. The baseline information is from years 1998-2008, and the data is linked with the national health registries to allow the follow-up of later health events of the cohort. One example of the HUUTI study results can be found in the UEF Electronic Publications Service (Ifeoma Onyeka, Premature deaths among illicit drug users: a follow-up study on treatment seeking clients in Finland).