Knowledge on the wellbeing of older people and schoolchildren is in high demand

The University of Jyväskylä recently published research which was widely circulated in the media. A research group led by Professor Taina Rantanen found that the ability to function among people aged 75–80 years is now significantly better than it was 30 years ago. This was noted in Finland and widely reported internationally.

Research on gerontology is the latest example of impressive wellbeing research conducted in Finland’s only faculty of sport and health sciences. The new research results on older people attracted wide international media coverage.

Each member of the research group has given interviews to the international media, the English language research announcement has had almost 19,000 readers online and the results have been reported in up to 100 languages.

“The publicity took us by surprise,” says Professor Taina Rantanen. In general, only bad news is ‘news’. It was great to see that the media was interested in some positive news about old age.”

The two published articles are part of an extensive research project funded by the Academy of Finland and the European Research Council, and they deal with the cohort differences and degrees of activity in ageing. The wide-ranging data in the Evergreen Project, which examines the functionality of older people, were collected in 1989 to 1990.

Recurring research projects explore the wellbeing of children and young people

The faculty also conducts research on physical activity and its impact on people’s wellbeing at different stages of life.

The wellbeing and physical activity of children and young people are being investigated every two years in the Physical Activity of Children and Young People in Finland (LIITU) research project.

The Research Centre for Health Promotion, which is part of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, runs a cooperative research project that collects data regarding the physical activity and experiences, values and attitudes towards physical activity among Finnish children and young people using both an online questionnaire and an objective G-sensor. The research is being conducted by Senior Researcher Sami Kokko.

The health of school-aged children is diversely monitored also in another research project, which was started 40 years ago. In Finland, the project is known as the WHO School-Aged Children Research. It is conducted in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of the international project Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) (

The project focuses on a diverse study of school-aged children’s experiences on health, wellbeing and health habits in their everyday social environments. The data are collected once every four years.

“The WHO School-Aged Children Research project plays a significant role in the faculty’s teacher training and its development,” says Associate Professor Leena Paakkari. “It is also important in the development of international health education.”

The research will produce high-level, internationally comparable and socially relevant information regarding the health habits and experiences among school-aged children and young people. Furthermore, it examines how school, family and other social contexts affect these experiences and habits.

Finns and the media show interest in the health of school-aged children – health education teachers bring information to schools

The results of both the WHO and LIITU research projects have received a lot of publicity in the Finnish media. We have cooperated with different media and given them research results before their official publication so that they have had enough time to produce their own material.

“The cooperation has worked well,” says Sami Kokko. “The results of the LIITU research have attracted the media’s attention, which is good. It is important to have public discussion regarding the amount of physical exercise among children and young people and how to increase their physical activities.”

In addition, the themes of the WHO research project, such as social media, loneliness and health skills, are important social issues. Various research projects based on this data have acquired significant external funding.

According to Postdoctoral Researcher Nelli Lyyra, the strength of the WHO research project “is that it is tightly linked with Sport and Health Sciences teacher training and the research results are used in its pedagogical development. In this way, the topical research results are brought to Finnish schools by health education teachers.”

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