Health, food and social change

Research on this thematic area focuses on consumer practices and meanings in relation to health/wellbeing and eating as well as factors and developments affecting these practices and meanings. Themes include micro studies of specific fields of health and social care and food consumption; analysis of food trends in various consumer groups and factors affecting them; media coverage and framing of food and health topics; the lay/expert–dynamics in contested issues related to health and/or food; the introduction and adoption of novel technologies; welfare service research and development; and the governance and politics of consumption. A major focus on the thematic area is the socio-technical change of consumer society. Research addresses both historical developments affecting current consumer practices and attempts to change these practices in transitions towards better futures.

Studies on the thematic field utilize a wide array of approaches. They are based on sociology of consumption and consumer studies, science and technology studies, sociology of health and illness, governmentality studies, marketing research, health and social policy analysis, and health management science. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used. The research material includes historical and contemporary documents and texts, interviews and group discussions, surveys and statistical data as well as social media data.

Work on the thematic field currently falls under three broad topics:

1. Transitions towards sustainable eating

Recent projects:
    • POPRASUS (Politics, practices and the transformative potential of sustainable diets) 2016-2020. Promotion of pro-environmental behaviour has become a new normativity in food and environmental policies. Dietary change has a huge potential in combating environmental problems; too little social scientific attention has been devoted to steering diet from the sustainability view point. The POPRASUS addresses this gap in knowledge in various ways. At the CCSR, we focus on the practices and engagements of forerunner groups aspiring to sustainable food consumption (promoters of insect eating, members of REKO-food circles). The results contribute to the emerging scientific and societal debate on how sustainable diet is defined and what are its barriers in everyday consumption, among different consumer groups and in institutional settings.
    • EE-TRANS (Eating and energy use reconfigured? Disruptions and novel transition pathways in food and energy systems) 2018–2022. In order to develop the current understanding of reconfigurations required for altering the patterns of production and consumption, this research project brings together sociotechnical transition and practice theories and connects them in a novel way with the analysis of institutional disruptions. The consortium analyses two transitions-in-the-making: the reduction of meat consumption for a more sustainable food system and the development of technologies for a fossil-free energy system. EE-TRANS analyses the emerging transitions in these two systems, and aims to develop middle-range concepts in understanding how consumption and production are or can be reconfigured or disrupted for sustainability transitions.

2. Health, risk and lifestyle

Recent projects:
    • +HEALTH (Making surplus health: lifestyle risk, consumption, and profit) 2017-2021
Health care and illness prevention today is about reducing health risks through modifying personal lifestyles (e.g., eating and exercising). Health is attained through the maintenance of a certain lifestyle, elements of which can be bought on the market. As a consequence, health has become an object of intense marketing and consumption. This dynamics is sustained by the inherent logic of the risk approach, which identifies new health risks to be prevented and marketed. This intersection of the quest for better health and more well-being with striving for larger markets and higher profits is called surplus health. +HEALTH studies the process in which health has been defined through risk and lifestyle and lifestyle made an object of consumption and profit. Its empirical focus is health risks and lifestyle choices associated with food and eating.

3. Exploring food trends

Recent projects:
    • SSMA (Smarter Social Media Analytics) 2016-2018. SSMA studies and develops methods to identify trends and phenomena related to food and eating using large social media datasets. The main data set is provided by Futusome Oy, and consists of one billion Finnish language messages from different social media services (2001-2016). Other data sets are the representative survey data collected by Taloustutkimus Oy (Suomi Syö 2007-2016) and the weekly purchase data on selected food product groups provided by S-Ryhmä (2012-2016). By cross-investigating these datasets using computational, quantitative and qualitative methods, SSMA identifies and analyses emerging food-related trends and phenomena.
    • RUOMU (Changing structures and competition issues in the Finnish food markets) 2016-2019. In this project, CCSR investigates changes in food consumption and analyses ongoing developments in food and eating. By analysing the food consumption volume data in the Statistics Finland Household Budget Survey 2016 the project has looked at changes in food consumption from the 1990s to the present day. The focus is on food purchases in different types of households in 1998, 2006, 2012 and 2016. With a consumer survey (N=1000) the project examines three topical themes: consumers’ trust in and use of private label products by retail chains, consumption and acceptability of meat and vegetable proteins, and the conditions for insect eating from the consumers’ perspective.

Mikko Jauho, PhD, Adjunct professor
Outi Koskinen, Doctoral student
Mari Niva, PhD, Adjunct professor (Professor at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, 2018-2021)
Essi Pöyry, PhD, Postdoctoral researcher

Recent publications

  • Aalto K (2018) Elintarvikkeiden kulutus kotitalouksissa vuonna 2016 ja muutokset vuosista 2012, 2006 ja 1998. Faculty of Social Sciences - Publications; nro 2018:80. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopisto, Kuluttajatutkimuskeskus.
  • Aitken M, Tully M P, Porteous C, Denegri S, Cunningham-Burley S, Banner N, Black C, Burgess M, Cross L, van Delden J, Ford E, Fox S, Fitzpatrick N, Gallacher K, Goddard C, Hassan L, Jamieson R, Jones K H, Kaarakainen M, Lugg-Widger F, McGrail K, McKenzie A, Moran R, Murtagh M J, Oswald M, Paprica A, Perrin N, Richards E V, Rouse J, Webb J, Willison D J 2018. Consensus Statement on Public Involvement and Engagement with Data-Intensive Health Research. International Journal of Population Data Science (in press).
  • Holm L, Lauridsen D, Lund TB, Gronow J, Niva M, Mäkelä J (2016) Changes in the social context and conduct of eating in four Nordic countries between 1997 and 2012. Appetite 103: 358–368.
  • Jallinoja P, Jauho M, Mäkelä J (2016) Newspaper debates on milk fats and vegetable oils in Finland, 1978–2013: An analysis of conflicts over risks, expertise, evidence and pleasure. Appetite 105, 274–282.
  • Jallinoja P, Niva M, Latvala T (2016) Future of sustainable eating? Examining the potential for expanding bean eating in a meat-eating culture. Futures 83: 4–14.
  • Jallinoja P, Jauho M, Pöyry E (2018) Miten Suomi söi 2008–2016? Erityisruokavaliot ja niiden taustatekijät. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka (in press).
  • Jallinoja P, Mäkelä J, Niva M (2018) Ruuan yltäkylläisyys ja rajat – sosiologisia havaintoja Suomesta. Duodecim 134: 1501–1507.
  • Jauho M (2016) The social construction of competence: Conceptions of science and expertise among proponents of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet in Finland. Public Understanding of Science 25 (3), 332–345.
  • Jauho M (2016) Terveellisen syömisen ja liikkumisen edistäjät ja esteet - laadullinen katsaus. Teoksessa Borodulin K, Jallinoja P, Koivusalo M (toim.) Epäterveellinen ruokavalio, vähäinen liikunta ja polarisaatio: syyt, kustannukset ja ohjaustoimet. Helsinki: Valtioneuvoston kanslia, 32–55.
  • Jauho M (2017) Contesting lifestyle risk and gendering coronary candidacy: lay epidemiology of heart disease in Finland in the 1970s. Sociology of Health & Illness 39 (7), 1005–1018.
  • Jauho M (2018) Patients-in-waiting or chronically healthy individuals? People with elevated cholesterol talk about risk. Sociology of Health & Illness (in press).
  • Jauho M, Helén I (2018) Symptoms, signs, and risk factors: Epidemiological reasoning in coronary heart disease and depression management. History of the Human Sciences 31 (1), 56–73.
  • Jauho M, Meskus M (2017) Tieteen- ja teknologiantutkimuksen näkökulma terveyteen. Teoksessa: Karvonen S, Kestilä L, Mäki-Opas T (toim.) Terveyssosiologian linjoja. Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 125–140.
  • Jauho M, Mäkelä J, Niva M (2016) Weight management, a compound practice of healthy eating and slimming? Sociological Research Online 21 (2) 5.
  • Kahma N, Mäkelä J, Niva M, Ganskau E, Minina V (2016) Convenience food consumption in the Nordic countries and St. Petersburg Area. International Journal of Consumer Studies 40: 492–500.
  • Laakso S (2017) Creating New Food Practices: A Case Study on Leftover Lunch Service. Food, Culture & Society 20(4), 631–650.
  • Mäkelä J, Niva M (2016) Citizens and sustainable culinary cultures. In Paloviita A, Järvelä, M (eds.):  Climate Change Adaptation and Food Supply Chain Management. Routledge, 172–182.
  • Niva M (2017) Online weight-loss services and a calculative practice of slimming. Health 21 (4), 409–424.
  • Niva M, Jallinoja P (2018) Taking a stand through food choices? Characteristics of political food consumption and consumers in Finland. Ecological Economics 154, 349–360.
  • Peura-Kapanen L, Jallinoja P, Kaarakainen M (2017) Acceptability of convenience food among older people. SAGE Open 7 (1), 1–11.
  • Santaoja M, Niva M (2018) Hyönteissyönnin etiikka, ekologia ja estetiikka. Niin & näin 25 (3), 77–87.
  • Soila T, Kaarakainen M (2018) Potilaasta kuluttajaksi? Sosiaali- ja terveyspalveluiden asiakkuuksien rakenteellinen muutos mediassa 2007–2017. Hallinnon Tutkimus 37 (4), 269–284.
  • Vainio A, Niva M, Jallinoja P, Latvala T (2016) From beef to beans: Eating motives and the replacement of animal proteins with plant proteins among Finnish consumers. Appetite 106: 92–100.