The History of Psychiatric Epidemiology in Finland: From National Needs to International Arenas, 1900s–1990s

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April 26, 2023

Psychiatric epidemiology has significantly influenced public health policies all around the world. This article discusses how Finnish epidemiologists reacted to local needs, which were born in specific circumstances and were controlled by science policy and funding opportunities. The development between the 1900s and 1990s is divided into three stages. The first Finnish studies in the field focused on the prevalence of mental illnesses in the country. The focus was to gain information for service planning, most of all to estimate the need for new hospitals and to set up the national social insurance system. After the Second World War, structural changes and social engineering fueled epidemiological interest. From the 1960s until the late 1980s, psychiatric epidemiology was interconnected with social psychiatry, which held a strong position in Finland. Since the 1990s, Finnish psychiatric epidemiology has been integrated with international epidemiology by using shared methodologies and through participation in transnational studies.