MEntal health and social DIsadvantage over the early life course: investigation into Genes, families and living conditions (MEDIG)



Unit at THL:

Welfare State Research and Reform

On other websites:


MEDIG project advances our understanding on the mechanisms underlying health inequalities and intergenerational transmission of social disadvantage. The overall aim is to investigate the impact of genes, family background, and living conditions, as well as their interplay, on health and socioeconomic status during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.  On the one hand, we analyze the role of mental health in intergenerational reproduction of social disadvantage, and on the other, the role of parental resources in shaping the impact of illness on socioeconomic outcomes. 


Using comprehensive register and genetic data from Finland, multidisciplinary perspectives, and state-of-the-art quantitative methods to analyse longitudinal data, the project will provide unprecedented evidence on how social disparities in health emerge, how social inequalities across generations are maintained, and where to target measures to promote well-being over the early life course. Genetic disposition is measured with polygenic scores based on previous genome-wide association studies. Our main focus is on psychiatric diagnoses due to the growing concern about mental illness and its individual and societal costs. 

Using the frameworks of life course theory, accumulation of (dis)advantage, intergenerational social mobility, and social selection and causation in health inequalities, the MEDIG project answers the following research questions: 

  • To what extent socioeconomic disparities in mental health in youth are explained by variation in genetic disposition for psychiatric problems and parents’ mental illness?
  • Are mental health problems in early life course a mediator between parents’ and children’s socioeconomic status?
  • Do parental socioeconomic resources moderate the impact of genetic dispositions?
  • Do we find a pattern of cumulative (dis)advantage over the early life course? 

The project produces information on avenues to promote well-being at the beginning of the life course. MEDIG is the first sociogenomic research project at THL, and with it our aim is to strengthen the expertise in the emerging field of social genomics in Finland.


  • University of Turku
  • INVEST flagship


Academy of Finland (decision number 342605)

Contact information

Maria Vaalavuo
Chief researcher
tel. +358 29 524 6754
e-mail: [email protected]

Henrik Dobewall
Senior researcher
tel. +358 29 524 8389
e-mail: [email protected]