Healthier population

patterns among people in debt who fall behind

Household debt continues to increase. Among those who fail to pay their debt, there is often a history of ill health. But do we get sick from being in debt, or do debts grow among those who are already sick? Would it be more beneficial, from a perspective of public finances, to work proactively against ill health rather than combatting debt itself?

Young homeless boy sleeping on the bridge. Photo:

For those who manage to pay their bills every month, being in debt is not a problem – it can be a way of fulfilling dreams of studies and living that would otherwise not have been possible. At the School of Economics and Management, researchers work together with the Swedish Enforcement Authority to find patterns among people in debt who fall behind, and how to best assist them. The question is whether it requires tougher regulations of the credit market.

Figuring out where the downward spiral begins

“Perhaps it’s more about taking action at a very early stage in cases of, for instance, depression. From a policy perspective, there is a huge difference: Are we to limit people’s ability to borrow money, or try to improve people’s health? We want to figure out where the downward spiral begins,” says Therese Nilsson, associate professor of Economics.

“If we turn it around: Does income make us feel good, or is it when we feel good that we are able to generate income?”

“By taking a loan, you can invest in things which may be beneficial to you in the future, such as housing and education. As long as you know that you will be making money during your lifetime, it’s not likely to become a problem.”

Read more: Does debt create ill health – or does ill health create debt?

Analysing the use of healthcare for dementia

At the same time, the proportion of older people is increasing in Sweden and in large parts of the world. The healthcare costs for dementia care are expected to increase dramatically. The School of Economics and Management is working together with the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University to figure out how healthcare can become as cost-effective as possible.

“We will analyse patients’ use of healthcare, drug intake and what assistance they receive from the municipality, as well as the situation for their loved ones,” says Ulf Gerdtham, professor of Health Economics.

Perspectives on e-health

Researchers from the School of Economics and Management are also engaged in the public debate on the emerging, various forms of e-health applications and access to online physicians. How does it affect the care that the Swedish welfare system can provide?

”Since 2016, a number of companies offering primary care services via chats or video calls have entered the Swedish primary care market. We have made the first study to investigate whether these services replace other primary care services or if they induce more care and potentially even increase the workload of traditional caregivers,” says Lina Maria Ellegård, Economics researcher .

Together with researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Ellegård found that  the use of telemedicine services is associated with higher use of other primary care services (visits and telephone or mail contacts). Further, telemedicine users visit the emergency room at least as often as other residents.

Read more: Online care users visit health centres more often than others (article in Swedish)