In this study, we will investigate ‘mental vulnerability’ in work life by using information gathered from specific occupational groups (e.g., social workers, health professionals), work organizations and national register sources (e.g., hospital discharge register).

Aims of the study

  • to explore the critical transitions in work organizations and the characteristics of ‘workership’ that are associated with mental vulnerabilities at work
  • to identify key interpretations and narratives concerning mental vulnerability among employees and organizational professionals
  • to construct proactive methods that can improve the management of mental health issues and reduce unnecessary medicalization

Our transdisciplinary analysis combines various types of large-scale population data on morbidity, employment, and structural changes with in-depth qualitative data.

The study is led by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. It involves collaboration with a network of researchers from various international universities.

Key researchers of the project

Ari Väänänen, PhD, DSocSc, Principal Investigator
Lauri Kokkinen, PhD
Jussi Turtiainen, MSocSc
Anna Kuokkanen, PhD
Pekka Varje, MSc
Anne Kouvonen, PhD
Aki Koskinen, MSc

Scientific Partners

  • Institute for Health and Welfare, Statistics Finland, Social Security Institution
  • University of Helsinki, University of Turku, University of Tampere, University of Jyväskylä
  • International partners: University of Kent, Queen’s University of Belfast, Keele University, Leeds University, Aalborg University, University of Toronto and Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization –research network

The main findings will be published in highly ranked international peer-reviewed journals in occupational health, sociology, public health, medicine, epidemiology, organizational research and management. In addition, different actors in society will receive versatile, novel, and highly usable information (e.g., health professionals, politicians, organizational developers) about the unidentified factors underlying mental vulnerability in work life.


The project began in autumn 2013 and will continue until the end of 2017.


Academy of Finland, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health


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Selected publications

Kuokkanen, A., Varje, P., & Väänänen, A. (2013). Transformation of the Finnish employee ideal in job advertisements 1944–2009. Acta Sociologica, 56, 213-226.

Kouvonen, A. Kokkinen, L., Varje, P., de Vogli R, Koskinen, A. & Väänänen, A. (2015). Hospitalization profiles among working-age Finnish men and women 1976-2010: a nationally representative multi-cohort study. PLOS One, 9, (11), e112314.

Kokkinen, L., Muntaner, C., Kouvonen, A., Koskinen, A., Varje, P. & Väänänen A. (2015). Welfare state retrenchment and increasing mental health inequality by educational credentials in Finland. BMJ Open ;5:e007297.

Turtiainen, J., Väänänen, A., & Varje, P. (forthcoming). The pressure of objectives and reality: Social workers’ perceptions of their occupational complexities in a trade journal in 1958-1999. Qualitative Social Work.