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How do we achieve health in modern society?

Health is more than mere absence of disease. Wellbeing can also be linked to cultural and religious experiences, and a new interdisciplinary research project at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, sets out to study and problematise this link.

'Health is no longer only a matter of being free of disease - it is also a matter of quality of life in general,' says Ola Sigurdson, project director and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion.

The research programme Religion, Culture and Health is unique in that researchers in theology, comparative literature and political science work together to find how health and a high quality of life can be achieved in modern society.

The first theme concerns fiction, play and health. The goal is to identify how basic values are portrayed in fictitious stories and what relevance they have for people's thoughts about happiness, success and wellbeing.

'Many people's perceptions of a good versus a bad life are formed by contemporary fictional stories in the mass media rather than by religion and religious stories,' says Yvonne Leffler, Professor of Comparative Literature.

The second theme relates to the state, religion and health. The aim is to explore the role and function of the state in the maintenance of civic rights and liberties and therefore also

influencing the daily choices and engagements made by ordinary citizens.

'We're focusing on the tension found in multicultural societies and the challenges that the state and public authorities face when trying to ensure cultural and religious rights at the same time as they attempt to give all citizens an opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life,' says Marie Demker, Professor of Political Science.

The third and last theme concerns existence, therapy and health. This theme focuses on how religious and medical treatments and therapy construct shared and individual perceptions of health and disease.

'Really, what does health mean? Spiritual health mustn't necessarily correlate with physical health and vice versa. You can be very healthy but nevertheless feel ill. Perhaps it's healthy to feel ill,' says Ola Sigurdson, who hopes that the project will impact the discussion on culture, religion and health.

The research project Culture, Religion and Health is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2015. It is directed by Ola Sigurdson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Yvonne Leffler, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Marie Demker, Professor of Political Science. Several younger researchers are involved as well.

The project is financed by Sten A Olsson's Foundation for Research and Culture.

For more information, please contact Ola Sigurdson at +46 (0)31 786 53 14 or

Helena Aaberg | idw
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