About Nordic Life Course Research

The Nordic Life Course Research Initiative has the aim to unfold the potential of the Nordic countries to contribute with knowledge of health and welfare in a life course perspective. Not only to create value for the Nordic citizens but also for the benefit of citizens globally. The unique potential builds on

The Core:

  • Nordic register based systems of health, welfare and education linked by unique identification numbers
  • The registers have been established for more than a generation which is an internationally unique resource

The Nordic life:

  • A health and welfare model aiming for equal tax financed access to health and education and citizen needs for welfare service
  • Tradition for collaboration across borders socially and nationally

This initiative is based on 10 years work to build up an unique large-scale transnational data infrastructure. We aim to establish the frames for the  joint efforts to use research to develop the experience for collaboration needed to develop knowledge of the complexity of life course health. This is also needed to strengthen the current European leadership in life course epidemiology and may for public health open a new horizon for frontier research. It meets the aims to make better value of the register system for the public, in terms of knowledge, disease prevention and treatment, and public health services and policy.


The establishment of the Nordic Life Course Research Initiative is financed by the Tryg Foundation (Grant 15199) but builds on funding from two sources

  • The common Nordic resources: European Research Council (ERC) established by a FP7. For further details see progeuro.au.dk
  • The extended Danish resources Trygfonden (Grant 904414) For further details see mindhood.au.dk


The intellectual infrastructure consists of a team of experienced scientists from all the Nordic countries in register-based research, who have considerable knowledge of the contents of the Nordic national health and socioeconomic-related registers and have the experience to obtain, pool, manage and analyze data from individual countries and combined Nordic data sets.

The founding institutions were:

Nordic School of Public Health (NHV), Gothenburg, Sweden

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Helsinki, Finland

Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark


In Europe including the Nordic countries we face a demographic development towards more elderly and fewer young adults who can contribute to the future society. We see an increase in the number of children and families in contact with the health care system for diagnosis and services for an array of childhood neuropsychiatric disorders in the Nordic countries. Further, an increasing proportion of children and youth are reporting mental and social health problems, which in the past have been predictive of poor adult welfare and well-being.

Poor mental health is associated with reduced educational attainment, higher school dropout rates and lower lifetime employability. Thus, it is essential from a societal and research perspective to develop an understanding of how mental health problems develop in a life course.

As individual countries, the Nordic countries are too small to have a significant influence. However, working together within research, the countries can provide more than the sum of what the individual countries can deliver. The strength of Nordic register research is well acknowledged and the most internationally scientifically recognized strength is our well-established register-based information system.

Together the three Nordic countries have the longest register follow-up by details, and in combination with the large Nordic ad hoc cohorts the Nordic countries possess a unique opportunity for examining life course trajectories and the potential to gain the added Nordic value from the early establishment of central registration of health, educational and welfare measures.

In Norway and Denmark the two largest ad hoc birth cohorts in the world have been established and children of these cohorts have been followed for more than 12 years. In both cohorts there has been a focus on mental child health measures. These cohorts are all linked to the registers and have already contributed at a high international level to our understanding of early life programming of mental health.