The enigma of the welfare state: excellent child health prerequisites – poor subjective health


C Lindgren M.D., Ph.D., Pediatric Outpatient Clinic, Bollnäs Hospital, 821 81 Bollnäs, Sweden.
Tel: +46 27838506 |
Fax: +46 27838353 |


The rate of subjective health complaints among Swedish children is increasing by age and over time, and more so than among children in other Scandinavian countries. In contrast, the somatic health and prerequisites for wellbeing are excellent. This paradoxical situation, The Enigma of the Welfare State, is the focus of this viewpoint. We argue that one important background factor may be late adverse effects of the welfare society itself and some of its inherent values. We have identified several possible pathways. We have given them names of diseases – on the society level – like health obsession, stress panic, welfare apathy and hyper-individualism. Together with other factors such as a dysfunctional school and an unsatisfactory labour market for youth, these diseases are involved in an interplay that is constantly inducing anxiety and low self-esteem.

Conclusion:  The gradually deteriorating self-reported health among Swedish youth may, to some degree, be explained as a late adverse effect of the welfare society itself and its inherent values.