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The Västerbotten Environmental Health Study

Research project The project meets the increase in stress-related mental illness in the population by examining e.g. the prevalence and risk factors for mental and somatic health problems in order to develop and test explanatory models for preventive purposes.

The project is a longitudinal questionnaire-based population study with data collected in 2010, 2013 and 2016 from 3406 adults in Västerbotten in order to investigate mental and somatic health problems in the population. The study has a particular focus on environmental intolerances and asthma/allergies, but includes also a number of other health problems that are stress-related and psychosomatic in nature. The results are expected to provide valuable information on prevalence, incidence, comorbidity, risk factors and explanatory models for mental and somatic illness.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2010-01-01 2024-12-31

Funding

AFA Försäkring
Botnia-Atlantica Programmet
Astma- och Allergiförbundets forskningsfond

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Psychology

Research area

Psychology

Project description

Today, as many as about 20% of women and 14% of men in the population suffer from mental illness, which in addition to the individual’s suffering becomes a heavy burden on primary care. About 1/3 of women and 1/4 of men who seek primary care are high in stress, and about 1/3 of the population have sleep problems, which can be linked to the fact that 30-50% of all somatic symptoms in patients seeking primary care are physiopathologically unexplained – to a large extent with underlying stress and sleep problems.

The primary aim is to study the prevalence, incidence, comorbidity and risk factors for various forms of mental and somatic illness, with the intention to develop and empirically test explanatory models for these conditions. A particular focus is on functional somatic syndromes such as environmental intolerances and conditions that are strongly linked to these, such as asthma and allergy. Comparisons are made between women and men and between different age groups. A secondary aim is develop and validate questionnaire instruments and provide normative data for these. 

The design is longitudinal, with data collection completed in 2010 (n = 3406), 2013 (n = 2336) and 2016 (n = 1837). The participants in the study constitute a random sample of the population in Västerbotten, aged 18-79, and are stratified by age and sex. Västerbotten has an age and sex distribution that is very similar to that of Sweden. The data collection was conducted with questionnaires that include a large number of validated questionnaire instruments for examination of mental and somatic health. The data contains information on demographics, disease diagnoses, symptoms, symptom-triggering factors, symptom attribution, stress, burnout, sleep disturbance, somatization, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, modern health worries, environmental intolerances, asthma/allergy, coping strategies and social support. The project has so far resulted in four doctoral dissertations and more than 30 articles in referee-reviewed scientific journals.