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  • Life style, care and research in Finland and Sweden. A lapidary overview.

    leif-andersson-1Leif Andersson

    – The picture in the background of the photo was made for my 60th birthday by one of my Ph.D. students with Kristiina Kanerva as the driving force. Previously, it has been part of the collection of the Finnish Medical Association but can be reproduced with the permission of Christer Holmberg, the chief editor.


    Well-known, recognized and scientifically productive.

    Professor emeritus Leif Andersson is an internationally recognized researcher.He graduated from Helsinki University in 1970, achieved his Ph.D. in 1973 and became an associate professor in experimental immunopathology and a specialist in pathology from the same university in 1975.

      From 1981-2012 Leif Anderson held the Swedish professoriate in pathology at Helsingfors University. During 1987-92 he was the research professor at the Finnish Academy and functioned as professor at the Karolinska Institute 1995-97.

    He received the Anders Jahre price in medical research in 1981 and the Finnish Medical Association 150 years price in 1985. He is the head of the Finnish Scientific Society since 1981.From 1996-98, Leif Andersson was the chairman of the Finnish Medical Society. 30 times he has been faculty opponent and has supervised 25 doctoral dissertations.

    370 scientific papers

    Leif Andersson has published around 370 scientific papers. Among them can be named his discovery of the first human erythroleukemic celle line K562, the discovery of glycophorin as an erythroid marker, the discovery of several new proteins specific for leukocytes, studies of the functional mechanisms of psychotropic drugs, elucidation of cell growth regulation, how cells are protected against apoptosis etc.

    Leif Andersson, professor emeritus in pathology at Helsinki University has been active in management positions in both Swedish and Finnish health care. Here are a few of his stray thoughts on the differences between the countries.


    The differences between public health in Sweden and Finland are not large. Smoking has significantly decreased and the Finnish men use the smallest amount of tobacco products in the EU. The Swedes smoke a little bit less but go for the snus instead.


    Alcohol use for the purpose of intoxication is a problem in Finland. The mortality due to alcohol related diseases is 4-5 times higher than in Sweden and Norway and nearly double that in Denmark.

    Alcohol use with the purpose of intoxication is also a cause for the large difference between the life expectancy of men and women in Finland. The latest numbers I saw was 77.8 for men and 83.8 for women. Alcohol leads to many accidents and suicides among men, and is doubled compared to the other countries in the Nordics.

    Life Expectancy

    When it comes to life expectancy there are large regional differences. While the men in Kainuu (north eastern Finland) have a life expectancy of 75.3 years the men in Österbotten have 80.1. If Swedish is your mother tongue life expectancy is 2.5 years higher. This is not due to rich boys living in the large cities in southern Finland. The difference is greatest in Åland and in Swedish Österbotten.

    Österbotten is also interesting. Despite the fact that the Swedish and Finnish speaking populations are genetically quite homogenous Swedish as mother tongue gives a significant advantage. Not only for life expectancy but also with regard to fewer sick days, lower unemployment, fewer disability pensioners, fewer suicides etc.

    Medical research at few medical faculties

    Medical research of significance is conducted in Finland at the five medical faculties (Helsinki, Åbo, Tammerfors. Kuopio and Uleåborg and the associated university hospitals.

    Finland offers good conditions for epidemiological and translational medical research. Next to the Icelanders, Fins have the best-known genetics. The population has until our days been static with insignificant immigration. We have the world’s most exact birth register of the population, which goes back more than three hundred years. The only holes are when church books have been destroyed in fires.

    Inherited diseases

    In addition Finland has a unique collection of inherited diseases of which many were first elucidated in Finland. This is caused by much of the country being populated by limited groups from south and east. The northeastern part of Finland was also sparsely populated and there were isolation and inbreeding. On the other hand, one of the most common recessive inherited disorders, cystic fibrosis, is practically unknown in Finland.Leena Peltonen-Palotie (1952-2010) made a great effort to elucidate the genetics of Finnish inherited diseases.

    Clinical research in jeopardy

    Unfortunately a decline can be spotted in the relatively successful clinical and translational medical research. The causes are many. The value of the merits given by research has declined.

    Hospital managers want a much bigger workload within routine clinical work. EVO (FoU) means have been reduced much and bureaucracy has increased so much that it hinders interest in research, Leif Andersson ends.


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