New Max Planck Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health in Rostock and Helsinki

Rostock. Starting in July, the MaxHel: Max Planck l University of Helsinki Center for Social Inequalities in Population Health aims to uncover the central social processes that generate health inequalities, building on novel conceptual insights and a completely unique data landscape.

"The Center analyzes how social family constellations, genetic factors, and 
individual social characteristics together produce health inequalities," says Mikko Myrskylä, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock. 

A team of 14 postdoctoral researchers and PhD students based in Rostock, 
Germany, and Helsinki, Finland, will investigate the causes of social inequalities, the drivers of long-term trends in inequalities, and how these inequalities manifest themselves differently under different macro-level social conditions. 

"MaxHel goes beyond standard observational research. We use exceptionally detailed linked family-based data, natural experimental designs, genetically informed social epidemiological data, and advanced dynamic modeling techniques. Uniquely, all these data are currently available at the University of Helsinki," says Pekka Martikainen, Professor of Demography at the University of Helsinki's Population Research Unit and the other director of the center. 

In May 2023, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Max Planck 
Society and the University of Helsinki, both of which contribute to the Center's budget of more than 5 million euros. Center Directors Myrskylä and Martikainen have successfully raised 2.5 million euros from the Max Planck Society, 2 million euros from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, 1 million euros from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and 0.5 million euros from the University of Helsinki. 

The Center's research agenda is based on four thematic pillars 

FAMILY: To assess the causes of long-term changes in health inequalities and to identify the contribution of family social factors and intergenerational 
interdependencies in the production of social inequalities in health; 
GENETIC FACTORS: To estimate the effects of social position on health using genetic information and to assess how genetic associations are mediated or modified by family and social position; 
COMPARISONS: to evaluate variations in explanations of social inequalities in health through international comparative research; and METHODS: to advance causal multistate modeling and integrate recent advances in counterfactual analysis from neighboring disciplines to inform analyses in Family, Genetic Factors, Comparisons, and demography and population health research more generally. 

The need to better understand the causes of health disparities is more relevant than ever. "Social inequalities in health and mortality have increased, and the unprecedented health and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may hit the most vulnerable hardest, further exacerbating health disparities," says Mikko Myrskylä. 

More information on the MaxHel Center:

Center Directors 

Mikko Myrskylä 
Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) 
and Professor of Social Data Science at the University of Helsinki. 
+49 381 2081-118 

Pekka Martikainen       
Director of the Population Research Unit (PRU) at the University of Helsinki, and Professor of Demography. He holds a PhD in Population Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. 
+358 0294123889 

Contact MPIDR 

Kathrin McCann 
Third-party funding manager 
+49 381 2081-265 

Silvia Leek                    
Head of Public Relations and Publications 
+49 381 2081-143 

Contact University of Helsinki 

Hannamaija Helander  
Communications Manager
+358 400 675 820

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.