Contingent Life Courses (C-LIFE) – Tracing Health and Welfare in the Nordic Countries

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Second four-country study published!

The study “Income security in Nordic welfare states for men and women who died when aged 55–69 years old” was published in Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy.

The paper was authored by Jon Ivar Elstad (picture) with Åsmund Hermansen, Henrik Brønnum-Hansen, Pekka Martikainen, Olof Östergren & Lasse Tarkiainen.

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First four-country C-LIFE study published

The study entitled “Contribution of smoking and alcohol consumption to income differences in life expectancy: evidence using Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish register data” was published in the renowned Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study was written by Olof Östergren (picture), Pekka Martikainen, Lasse Tarkiainen, Jon Ivar Elstad and Henrik Brønnum-Hansen.

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What is C-LIFE about?

The objective of C-LIFE is to establish a comparative Nordic database including register data on welfare, health, employment and socioeconomic conditions. Such a database will facilitate new opportunities to research questions of high scientific and societal interest.

As we know that this task is difficult, in terms of data harmonisation, ethical issues, data protection law, technical solutions and national data protection practice, C-LIFE will also document the process, and make our experiences available to others.

New data opportunities – new research
The project title, Contingent Life Courses, reflects that people’s lives and life chances are structured by the social context, and notably, the welfare state. The database will enable rigorous analyses of how life courses are shaped by social policy, and assessments of the importance of social policy and welfare reform for health, welfare and social inequality in the Nordic countries.

Register data has many advantages. They cover the entire population. This means that they enable researchers to investigate demographic groups that rarely respond to surveys, like immigrants, social assistance recipients and people who live in institutions. Statistical power is rarely an issue. Furthermore, people usually don’t self-select into public registers. Thus, non-response and attrition that too often threaten the external validity of surveys, is not a problem.

Bringing in the Nordic dimension and combining data on socioeconomic conditions and health are features of the C-LIFE project that facilitate new and potentially ground-breaking research. Comparing life courses and structural developments across the Nordic countries provides a ‘social laboratory’ for grand societal questions about social inequalities, social mobility, health inequalities and the sustainability of the Nordic welfare states.


Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social Policy,
OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University

Department of Public Health Sciences
Stockholm University/Karolinska Institutet

Department of Public Health,
University of Copenhagen

Department of Demography,
University of Helsinki

01.04.2016-31.12.2019: Nordforsk, Nordic Programme on Health and Welfare “Nordic Register Pilots” (Grant No. 75970).