Religion as Social Determinant of Health Behavior (OsloMet)

Project background

Since the mid-20th century, the understanding of behavior underpinning illness and mortality has been growing and now it is regarded as one of the major components of health. However, the reductionist focus on health behavior as an outcome of an individual responsibility and agency has been increasingly challenged by a sociological approach to health behavior, which emphasizes the need to acknowledge the specifics of context and complex structural issues that determine what people do and why.

From this perspective, any health behavior socially regarded as wrong or harmful should be deconstructed and seen not merely as an individually held beliefs but rather placed into a broader context of social discourses unveiling the ways in which people interact with social others and reconfigure their choices in relation to others.

Neither the final report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health, which was set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005, nor later versions include religion in the list of the determinants.

Reading through media and often public health reports, religion’s impact on health issues is seen as mostly detrimental and usually associated with discrimination or violence against minority groups or a basis for various prejudices, referring to religion’s antiquated nature.

There is evidence that religion can significantly influence major attitudes and be a protective factor in preventing risky health behavior, provide profound meanings when confronted with life-threatening events. For migrant communities, religion has been found an important ‘cultural capital’ they are bringing with them in the search for new ways of belonging and a source of psychological, social, and spiritual coping and support in all stages of immigration.

However, religious beliefs may also emphasize negative perceptions about reality exacerbating already existing stress and anxiety and be an important causal factor in vaccine hesitancy and observance of all the health authorities’ recommendations.

About the project

The purpose of the project is to broaden a vision of religion as an important social determinant, both positive and negative, of population health, especially in connection with migrant populations, and include religion into the discussion on complex interacting influences that affect people’s health behaviour.

Possible thesis questions

  • Role of religious beliefs in vaccine hesitancy among migrants in Norway during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Religious communities and their attitudes to Norwegian health care system
  • Who knows best: your grandma or a Norwegian doctor? Trust to Norwegian healthcare among migrant populations


All the questions require work with empirical data either already gathered (e.g., there is data on access to vaccination during COVID-19 pandemic among migrants) or which needs to be collected. It can be both quantitative and qualitative research.

Relevant for which study options

International Social Welfare and Health Policy

The project can accept up to 3 students.

Possible supervisors / co-supervisors

Prof. Torkel Brekke, Head of Diversity Studies Centre Oslo (DISCO) at OsloMet. He has a PhD in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. Primary research interest on religion, politics and conflict with South Asia and the Nordic countries as the main focus. Research projects on prejudice against Jews and Muslims. Affiliated with Centre for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo.

Prof. Svenn-Erik Mamelund, head of the Centre for Research on Pandemics & Society (PANSOC) at OsloMet and the President of Norwegian Demographic Society. He has a PhD in demography 23 years experience in studying the demography of epidemic diseases with a particular focus on the 1918-20 influenza pandemic. Mamelund is a leading expert in pandemic research. He held presentations at UN Population Division Expert Group Meeting on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Fertility, 2021; ECDC (2018) and WHO (2019) Expert Meetings on Non-Pharmaceutical Countermeasures for Pandemic Flu in Stockholm and Hong-Kong.

Dr. Alexandra (Sasha) Blinkova is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for In 2018, she successfully defended her PhD thesis on Religious Education in Russia and the European Union: Comparative Analysis at the department of philosophy of religion and religious studies, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. Her primary research interests include religion in education with a focus on ideology, values, and identity formation, religion as a social determinant of health behaviour, and Orthodox Christianity as migrant religion.

Contact person

Alexandra Blinkova

GENPATH: A Life Course Perspective on the Gendered Pathways of Exclusion from Social Relations in Later Life, and its Consequences for Health and Wellbeing (Nova)

About the project

GENPATH is an international European research project focussing on social exclusion in later life and consequences for heath and wellbeing. Social exclusion is a multifaceted social problem with substantial disruptive consequences for individuals and society. One aspect of social exclusion is the exclusion from social relations, sometimes called social isolation, which is the main focus in this project.

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals within good health and well-being, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, and sustainable cities and communities.

Possible thesis questions

Students interested in this topic will in their master thesis focus on three key concepts: social isolation, gender and health and wellbeing. if interested, a cross national comparison can be conducted. Possible research questions are:

  1. Why is the risk of being socially isolated particularly high for older women as compared to older men?
  2. Are wellbeing outcomes of social isolation different for men and women, and if so, why?
  3. What is worse for health; being alone or feeling alone (lonely)?
  4. What is the lived experience of older Norwegians with respect to the times of social isolation under the corona pandemic?


Most of these questions can be answered with available quantitative data, such the European Quality of Life Survey; the Norwegian Life-course and generation Study (NORLAG) or the European Social Survey.

For the purpose of the project, we also interviewed 30 older Norwegians about their lived experience of social isolation and loneliness during their lives. All interviews are transcribed, and these transcriptions are now available for use by other people.

The interviews give very rich descriptions and can be used for many questions related to the life course, such as how conflicts over the life course are related to social isolation or loneliness in later life, or how transitions over the life course are associated with loneliness in later life, or which strategies older people use to avoid feeling lonely under the pandemic.

Relevant for which study options

This project is relevant for International Social Welfare and Health Policy

Up to 2 students can participate in this project

About us

See our web page:

Contact Person

Marja Aartsen –

AMASE: A multidimensional approach to social exclusion in later life (Nova)

About the project

Social exclusion, or the exclusion from mainstream society, is a multidimensional concept and has many faces. It can refer to those that cannot participate in civic society, but also to people who have a very small social network, or who are poor or who are excluded from health care services or public transport.

Being socially connected is a universal need and a fundamental human right, but a considerable number of older people in Europe and to some extent also Norway are socially excluded. Older people have an increased risk for social exclusion due to the accumulation of factors associated with age, such as poor health, loss of relatives and friends, and lower physical and social activities. Social exclusion is not only unwanted in its own right, but also because of the disruptive consequences for mental and physical health, leading to substantial social, economic and health expenditures for societies. With the AMASE project we hope to get more insight into the multidimensional nature of old age social exclusion and its consequences for mental and physical health of older adults.

Possible thesis questions

In this quantitative project, students can develop their own questions that are related to social exclusion in later life. Possible research questions that can be investigated are:

  1. Who is at risk for social exclusion (in Norway or Europe)?
  2. How are exclusion from different domains interrelated?
  3. What are the health and wellbeing outcomes of social exclusion? Do welfare states moderate associations between social exclusion and health/wellbeing?
  4. How does social exclusion change over time?


Students can work with existing quantitative datasets such as the European Quality of Life Survey; the Norwegian Life-course and generation Study (NORLAG) or the European Social Survey.

Relevant for which study options

This project is relevant for International Social Welfare and Health Policy.

Up to 2 students can participate in the project.

About us

See our web page:

Contact person

Marja Aartsen –

The Literature Review Project (OsloMet)

About the project

The Literature Review Project is looking for 2-4 master’s students to write a master’s thesis that summarizes research that applies policy perspectives to concrete (empirical) cases. I wish for students who want to summarize research on «The Advocacy Coalition framework» (Sabatier, 2007), «The Multiple Streams Approach» (Kingdon, 1984), «The policy cycle» (Jann & Kai, 2007), or «Incrementalism/ The science of muddling through” (Lindblom, 1979). But also «Punctuated Equilibrium» (Baumgartner et al., 2018), «What’s the problem represented to be?» (Bacchi & Goodwin, 2016), or «Wicked problems» (Rittel & Webber, 1973) are relevant theoretical perspectives. There is also an opening for students who have good arguments for summarizing empirical research on other perspectives.

The student is advised to follow a 10-point elective course called «Research Training» (SIW4500) via the project «The Literature Review Project» (TLRP) in autumn 2023, but this is not an absolute requirement. The advantage of participating in the elective TLRP course, is that you will be part of a group where you will learn to reflect on each other’s literature search, critical assessment of the literature, interpretations, and summary of the research. This helps you answer the questions «What do we know about this topic?» and «What does the review add to existing knowledge?». The project also gives you additional knowledge about choosing your type of literature review, most often a variant of «aggregative review» or «interpretive review», or possibly a combination. Literature on different types of literature reviews will be presented in the elective course (SIW4500).

Data and Methods

Data is available via the University Library and digital databases at OsloMet, as well as literature available on the internet. Literature on different types of summaries

Why Write a Literature Review

Interpretations of literature reviews of research are knowledge that working life increasingly needs as knowledge-based policy spreads. This will particularly apply to students who wish to apply for jobs in knowledge organizations, such as universities, directorates, WHO or NGOs. They also learn the benefits of working systematically, get an overview of the field, and answer what a study can add to existing knowledge in the field. They will understand much more about what it takes to be able to publish in international journals.


Simon Innvær –

Welfare and Social Sustainability (OsloMet)

Project Background

The Norwegian welfare state has emerged as successful in ensuring redistribution, employment, gender equality and general welfare among Norwegian citizens. Even in crisis periods such as the financial crisis of 2008 and the corona crisis of 2020-21, Norway has fared relatively well in this respect.

Nevertheless, we see development trends that allow us to question the sustainability of the welfare state, both in the longer term and as a nation-state project. We see increasing social inequality, increasing child poverty, a declining proportion of the working population, and new migration to Norway. At the same time, we are facing a technological development that means that many professions in the future may be replaced by machines.

This places new demands on the competence of the population, an ageing of the population that entails fewer taxpayers of working age, and more people who need care and health services, and not least we face global climatic challenges that lead to changes in our way of life and future horizons.

The concept of social sustainability is about a society’s ability to meet the needs of its current and future inhabitants in a way that ensures the welfare and quality of life of all, including those who are marginalized or disadvantaged, and potentially including a historical and present-day focus on global equality. For the welfare state, the concept is about preserving and further developing the mechanisms and institutions that ensure financing, production, quality assurance and support for central welfare schemes.

Project Purpose

Within this framework, the aim of the project is to study the social sustainability of the welfare society at different areas and levels.  When it comes to thematic areas, there may be specific policy areas such as labor market or family policy, or immigration policy. In terms of levels, it may be about understanding reforms in social policing (questions about the organization of social work services, the relationship between home and work, or in everyday life, standard of living and living in different segments of society. It may also apply to analyzing current challenges (including climate change and global migration) from a decolonial perspective, which considers in the analysis historical patterns of inequality, regarding indigenous people and globally, and how this shapes the present situation and future possibilities.

Proposed topics/issues for the thesis

How is poverty portrayed in the Norwegian press?

How does Norwegian policy towards transgender people compare to the UK?

Do social workers contribute to making welfare services (e.g. in school or health) socially sustainable?

Several possible inputs to consumption studies:

From inherited and used, to reuse and upcycling. New symbolic class divisions in consumption?

VegetaRianism, Veganism and Organic Food: Climate Idealism, Animal Welfare or HealthConcerns?

New family configurations, new care landscapes and the adaptations of the welfare state – for example, care services for older immigrants or LGBT+?

Visually impaired people’s use of digital media in education, work, or leisure – new opportunitiesor new challenges?

Relevant for which study options

All master’s programmes at the Department of Social Studies, Child Welfare and Social Policy

Master students who want to write within the topic of welfare and social sustainability will get individual supervisors from the subject group Globalisation and Social Sustainability, but we also take turns participating in a group that receives input and follow-up from each other and each other’s supervisors. The group is led by Ivan Harsløf, Randi Wærdahl, Erika Gubrium and Rune Halvorsen

About us

Globalisation and Social Sustainability investigates how global challenges like migration, war and conflict, climate change and poverty, materializes in national and local contexts, change and shape social work and social policy. In addition, the unit focuses on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) and how international social work may contribute to achieve them.

The group have a goal to develop its international cooperation in research and education and contribute to strengthening students’ ability to analytically reflect and critically understand how international developments shape social work and social policy, on local, national, and transnational levels.

This unit is part of the Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social Policy.


Ivan Harsløf –
Randi Wærdahl –
Erika Gubrium –
Rune Halvorsen –

Knowledge for Change – Opportunities for Multi-disciplinary Placements in Global Health

Knowledge for Change (K4C) is a UK and Ugandan registered NGO that supports systems-change through capacity-building in Uganda. We run a number of high-profile projects at any one time, grounded in active relationships with Fort Portal Health Sciences University, Kabarole Health District, local schools and NGOs in Uganda. The work is constantly evolving as new interventions emerge. We are also very happy to respond to any ideas or interest students have.


Fort Portal (Uganda):

Tuition Fee: £1,200

Accommodation: £200 per month

Accommodation (Entebbe – 1 night on arrival): £20

Airport Transfers (return journey): £100

Kampala (Uganda):

Tuition Fee: £1,200

Accommodation: £300 per month

Accommodation (Entebbe – 1 night on arrival): £20

Airport Transfers (return journey): £50

Zanzibar (Tanzania):

Tuition Fee: £1,200

Accommodation: £320 per month

Airport transfers (return journey): £20

Relevant projects for 2022 and beyond

Rehabilitation For People with Limb Loss and Damage: What do People with Disabilities Want and How do we meet their needs?

In February 2022 K4C will open the first Rehabilitation Centre for People with Physical Disabilities in a Ugandan public hospital. The Centre is attached to the orthopaedic workshop. We are also opening a virtual learning centre on the premises with resources to develop user-engagement and are very keen to find out what people with limb loss and damage in Uganda know about service availability and how they experience artificial limbs provided by our team at the workshop.

We have 2 staff at K4C who have direct experience of limb loss and would be keen to work with you in this area.

What is the Role of Foreigners and Foreign Aid in International Development? How do student placements benefit Uganda and Norway?

This is an underlying theme that underpins all the work K4C is involved with. It concerns the human resource dynamics of international programs including student placements. Previous work undertaken by K4C has been published (see below).

We are continuing to develop this work and a Salford University PhD students will be part of the team based in Uganda and able to support you in this area of work. Or work so far has focused on the Uganda-UK context. Maybe you would be interested to explore Norwegian policy and practice in this area?

Mobile Professional Voluntarism and International Development: Killing Me Softly? (2017 – Open Access)

The Ethics of Educational Healthcare Placements in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: First Do No Harm? (2017 – Open Access)

Healthcare, Frugal Innovation and Professional Voluntarism: A Cost-Benefit Analysis (2017 – Open Access)

Educating Girls in Uganda

Girls have always had second place when it comes to deciding who to educate in families in Uganda. COVID-19 has had a major impact on children’s education with children out of school for over 2 years; one of the longest school lock downs in the world.

What are the consequences of this for girls? In terms of their education (will many never return?)

Much of the health education in Uganda around HIV, reproductive health and cervical cancer prevention (through HPV vaccination) takes place through primary schools. What impact has lock down had on pregnancy rates, incidences of rape and disease prevention?

We are currently working with a team of colleagues on this issue including work with 2 ‘Senior Women’ – teachers with the specific responsibility for health education.

Are you interested to explore some of these impacts and ways of improving girls’ education with school and/or ways of meeting their needs outside of the formal school environment?

Attitudes to Medicines and Increasing Preferences for Intravenous Medication

K4C has done a lot of work in recent years on the growing problem of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). AMR is becoming one of the most significant global threats as overuse of antibiotics reduces their effectiveness. In the future more people will die from simple infections. Antibiotic overuse in Uganda will have an immediate impact on the health of people in Norway and the UK.

Anti-Microbial Resistance in Global Perspective | SpringerLink:
Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to the well-being of patients and health systems the world over. In fragile health systems so challenged, on a day-today basis, by the overwhelming burden of both infectious and non-communicable disease, it is easy to overlook the impacts of AMR.

This is not a problem just for clinicians. We need to understand why it is that people want to consume so many antibiotics? In Uganda you can simply buy them in shops. We are staring to find that the public have a preference for IV antibiotics, and many are having such treatment unnecessarily. Why is that?

You will see children playing in the streets with IV lines in their hands. Is this not a cause of infection for them?

One of our team has been working on public preferences for IV antibiotics so we can learn more about why the public in Uganda are so keen to take antibiotics and, why they prefer IV antibiotics.

Supervision and Support

Students would be supervised by actively engaged staff at the University of Salford, supported by Salford’s doctoral researchers, K4C Professional Volunteers and Ugandan professionals (including a dedicated Placement Manager) on the ground in Uganda. Students will have the option to spend 2-4 weeks in the Knowledge and Place Research Group prior to their empirical work in Uganda and/or a period with the group on their return to support data analysis and writing up.


Websites: research-groups/knowledge-and-place

Phone/Whatsapp: +44 (0) 161 7977409985
Twitter: ‘@K4C_Uganda’
Facebook: ‘Knowledge4Change