Finland makes use of excellent population research data

15 Dec 2020

An Academy of Finland Academy Programme, Health from Cohorts and Biobanks (COHORT), has become a global forerunner in the collaborative use of existing research data. Over the past two decades, Finnish research on health promotion has reached a very high level in global terms. In part, this has come about thanks to the excellent research data used in programmes such as COHORT, where researchers study population group cohorts to gain evidence on the importance of lifestyles to health.

COHORT applied scientific renewal, the approach backed by the Academy’s strategy, in a novel way. It supported the integration of ongoing projects by bringing together existing birth cohorts into new, useful entities. This increased collaboration between basic research, clinical research, public health research and research into the healthcare system, improving the scientific and societal impact of the field.

COHORT’s six multidisciplinary projects have been based on several different birth cohorts. The programme has also promoted the use of biobank samples in research.

CoCoBi created a model for combining different datasets and then using them in healthy ageing studies. The data included the research cohorts in the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s Biobank, birth cohorts for Northern Finland, and data for nearly 1.4 million people in the Borealis Biobank for Northern Finland. “COHORT launched major cooperation concerning extensive population research data,” says Minna Ruddock, Project Manager. The project also established the Arctic Biobank – University of Oulu. The cooperation will continue in the community of Finnish biobanks.

The FINMIC project, led by Professor Juha Pekkanen, created an efficient collaboration network for major Finnish birth cohorts, which made available data on the development of children’s allergies and on the environmental and human microbiome. The first joint analyses for 5,500 children begun as soon as the data was harmonised. The collection of samples has been standardised to determine the impact of the environmental microbiome, and the network has also led to several new collaboration projects and applications.

The “Early determinants of cardiovascular, metabolic and reproductive health” study examined the ability to pinpoint the start of puberty using children’s growth measurement data and the growth curve model. ”We also studied hormonal changes during puberty in young people who used less saturated fat and cholesterol throughout their childhood, and we established that the changes didn’t differ from those in other young people. We’re currently studying the effects of being overweight or obese on boys’ sex hormone levels throughout childhood and adolescence,” says Professor Harri Niinikoski, who led the EDCar project.

The BIRTHFAM project led by Professor Pekka Martikainen has created a unique set of data covering the entire population of Finland over the past five decades. ”We’ve created a methodological basis for analysing these complex datasets. Data based on family connections have enabled us to assess the interaction between social and genetic risk factors to understand the causes of health inequalities and intergenerational continuity,” Martikainen says.

The Sleep in Development consortium connected researchers in the CHILD-SLEEP and Finnbrain birth cohorts. It has described the development of sleep time, sleep quality and sleep-wake rhythms from three months to two years of age and evaluated the significance of good sleep for child development. “We also created a website for parents and healthcare professionals about children’s sleep and factors affecting it. There are also tips for parents on how to help children sleep better,” says the principal investigator of the consortium Juulia Paavonen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

The final seminar of the COHORT Academy Programme will be held on Wednesday 16 December 2020 at 12.00–16.00 as a webinar. The webinar will be in English. Follow the live stream via this link.

Inquiries and more information

COHORT Academy Programme

  • Heikki Vilen, Programme Manager, tel. +358 295 335 135, heikki.vilen(at)
  • Sara Illman, Programme Manager, tel. +358 295 335 119, sara.illman(at)

CoCoBi consortium

  • birth cohorts for Northern Finland: Minna Ruddock, Project Manager, University of Oulu, tel. +358 294 485 751, minna.ruddock(at)
  • THL Biobank: Kaisa Silander, tel. +358 295 248 722, kaisa.silander(at)
  • Borealis Biobank for Northern Finland: Pia Nyberg, tel. +358 40 046 1349, pia.nyberg(at)

FINMIC consortium

  • Professor Juha Pekkanen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 40 508 1077, juha.pekkanen(at)

EDCar consortium

  • Professor Harri Niinikoski, University of Turku, tel. +358 44 338 8488, hjniin(at)

BIRTHFAM consortium

  • Professor Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 44 286 1946, pekka.martikainen(at)
  • Jaakko Kaprio, Research Director, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 50 415 1282, jaakko.kaprio(at)

PSYCOHORTS consortium

  • Professor André Sourander, University of Turku, tel. +358 50 365 3447, andsou(at)

Sleep in Development consortium

  • Juulia Paavonen, Research Manager, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. +358 295 248 656, juulia.paavonen(at)

Academy of Finland Communications
Leena Vähäkylä, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 139

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