Helene Castenbrandt

Helene Castenbrandt


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Personal profile


I have a PhD in history from University of Gothenburg (2012), and my thesis is entitled Dysentery in Sweden 1750-1900: the demographic and medical history of a disease. My main research interests involves medical history, demographic changes and population history. During my postdoc I stayed at the University of Copenhagen, funded through the Swedish Research Council’s grant International Postdoc.

My current research project, also funded through the Swedish Research Council, focuses on the history of long-term sickness absence. Today, large efforts are invested in understanding why modern societies spend more and more money on prolonged sickness cases. But one perspective is usually missing: Systems for long-term sickness absence have developed throughout the 20th century, a period marked by large health transformations and societal change. Rather than being a new phenomenon, long-term sickness absence should be understood as something old, developed and framed alongside the Swedish welfare system. The boundaries for sick leave have throughout the history of health insurance been highly debated and changed over and over. This development has been influenced by political views and societal change, including workforce fluctuations, the possibilities for retirement, disability pension, and social benefits, as well as the organisation of health care and the epidemiological transition. It is thus a socially constructed system with firm roots in biological and economic realities. Yet, no historical research exists that analyses this phenomenon as a historical process, which, in light of the highly debated rising costs for long-term sickness absence today, explains the relevance such a project. Therefore, this project aims to better our understanding of the development and changing boundaries of long-term sickness absence in Sweden during the first half of the 20th century.


I currently teach on the following courses: 

EOSE08, Economy and Society: Skill Training 2 - The Art of Writing and Reporting

EKHD05, Economic History: The Emergence of Modern Health Care Systems

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

UKÄ subject classification

  • Economic History
  • History


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