University of Gothenburg
Hands from different generations of people.
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Lifecourse epidemiology

Why is obesity affecting more and more children and adults? What role does diet play? These are two questions our researchers are seeking to answer.

What is Lifecourse epidemiology?

In the “Lifecourse epidemiology” research area, long-term effects of physical and social exposures during pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and how they affect health in later life, are studied. Vital aspects in this area are the epidemiology of obesity and socioeconomic factors.

Our research

Obesity and overweight are affecting more and more people worldwide. Since the mid-1970s, the number has nearly tripled. In 2016, according to WHO, almost 2 billion adults and 340 million children were overweight or obese. Factors causing the big increase among children are said to include altered eating habits and lifestyle. There is a major need for more knowledge about various risk factors and how best to design effective programmes to promote a healthy lifestyle for children and adults. 

In population, clinical and qualitative studies, our researchers study the connections between eating habits, health and ill-health. We investigate how certain diets exacerbate risks of ill-health — such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer —throughout life. The researchers study subjects ranging from newborns to pensioners. The aim is, through increased knowledge, to create better opportunities to prevent disease and contribute to better public health.

Our research areas

  • Diet, obesity and mental well-being in European children
  • Social inequalities in obesity 
  • Body composition and aging 
  • Sedentary habits, physical activity and activity patterns
  • Climate impact of diets and reduction of food waste 
  • Migration and cardiometabolic health of European children 
  • Early-life interventions to prevent obesity 
  • Assessment of regular alcohol intake and episodic drinking 
  • Promotion of healthy foods in Swedish retail stores 
  • Potential effects of keyhole logo on adolescents’ diet quality 
  • Childrens’ sleep quality, obesity, and academic performance 

Ongoing studies

The IDEFICS-I.Family cohort is a European collaboration in which 8 countries including Sweden have been monitoring health characteristics in around 21,000 children since 2007. One of the main aims is to follow the BMI trajectory of this cohort from childhood into adulthood. A web-survey is an ongoing in all participating countries. In particular, overweight and other health indicators markers during growth will be studied in relation to energy-balance behaviors (diet, physical activity) over the same time period. Survey centers include: Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Germany, coordinated at the Leibniz Institute in Bremen.

More ongoing studies:

Important findings 

A selection of published research findings:

  • Growing social divide in obesity in young Swedish men
  • Work-related stress predicts weight gain’ 
  • Low insulin levels may be new risk marker for cognitive decline 
  • Sugar intake in children predicts alcohol use in adolescence 
  • In western Sweden, adults are have been moving towards a diet with lower climate impact over the past two decades


Close connection between research and education

There is close cooperation between the Institute’s research and our education and training, in which many of our researchers too are involved. They supervise doctoral students and teach on our regular programmes, freestanding courses and vocational care programmes within Sahlgrenska Academy.

Read more about our education