A conference on Nordic comparisons of addictive substances and behaviors – Time for the revival of the tradition of Nordic research exchange!

Alcohol, Doping, Drugs, Gambling, Tobacco

Jessica Storbjörk, Tuulia Lerkkanen & Ulrika Winerdal
Published 13 Dec 2023

The Department of Public Health Sciences at Stockholm University and its Center for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD) are announcing a conference on Nordic Comparative Research on Addictive Substances and Behaviors – Advancing by Comparing. It takes place in Stockholm, in April 2024. The three-day conference aims to revive the tradition of Nordic research collaboration by presenting the latest Nordic comparisons and sharing a platform for inspiring researchers to discuss possible comparisons in the future.

There is a long tradition of comparative Nordic research. The similarities but also differences between the countries make them well suited for country comparisons. Such research helps discern national characteristics and provides new perspectives on national experiences. Comparative social science research on alcohol and drugs flourished when the Nordic Council for Alcohol and Drug Research, with the task of promoting and developing interdisciplinary contacts, was active from 1979 to 2008 (NAT Editorial 1991; 2008). The council published about 50 research anthologies that compared the countries’ experiences of a broad array of research areas (see NAD publication series).

Recent comparisons in the social science field of Alcohol, Narcotics, Doping, Tobacco, and Gambling (ANDTG) are scarcer. In addition, ANDTG- questions have increasingly become incorporated into overall public health and welfare research (Storbjörk et al. 2020). This has provided a broader perspective on ANDTG, but also, together with changes in funding opportunities, contributed to the neglect of purely comparative ANDTG studies.

The Nordic countries continue to struggle with similar challenges in this area, often with several parallel research projects going on. It is, therefore, time to gather researchers to focus on and learn from Nordic comparisons to resurrect knowledge exchange and crystallize some ways forward.

Nordic comparisons a long-awaited theme –

Positive responses around the Nordics

The conference organizing committee surveyed the field and invited around 10 speakers from Sweden and 20 speakers from other Nordic countries to the program. The presentations have been chosen to highlight Nordic comparisons and all attendants are encouraged to bring their national or project-based experiences to the discussions in each session.  These conversations are expected to spark new ideas and researcher formations for future projects.

While planning the conference, the contacted researchers around the Nordics have given highly positive responses, reflecting that Nordic exchanges and comparison are long-awaited topics.

Overview of finalized Nordic comparisons, digging deeper into contemporary research topics, and possibilities for future studies and collaborations

The program gathers around Nordic social science ANDTG- comparisons to help advance the field and jointly discover solutions to current challenges.

It starts off with more general introductions to Nordic comparisons, from both theoretical and methodological perspectives. Next, a selection of completed comparisons covering nicotine, adolescents, alcohol, older adults, gambling, and societal responses to problem substance use will provide attendants with ideas about interesting country similarities and differences. Hence, the conference uses broad themes to bring together different substances and behaviors, and compares the developments across both substances/behaviors and countries. The conference has chosen to dig deeper into three contemporary areas subject to Nordic comparisons and of great interest to Nordic scholars:

  1. Register studies with a special focus on alcohol and smoking, but also migration;
  2. Drug policy, harm reduction, and drug-related crimes; and
  3. Substance use and wellbeing among adolescents.

The last day explicitly aims forward by raising some initiatives urgently calling for Nordic comparisons: drug-induced deaths, the regulation of harmful industries (alcohol and gambling); and organized activism of people who use drugs.

Important dates and deadlines

  • Conference days: 17th of April –19th of April, 2024
  • Registration opens: 8th of December, 2023
  • Last day for registration: 25th of February, 2024

The conference has the capacity to accept about 75 participants, and is given in English. Attendance is free of charge and includes light lunches, refreshments, and a conference dinner. Participants organize and pay for travel and accommodation expenses themselves. The conference is supported by a conference grant by Forte. For more information, program and registration: click here.

You may contact conference coordinator Ulrika Winerdal (ulrika.winerdal@su.se) or project manager Jessica Storbjörk (jessica.storbjork@su.se) in case you have any questions regarding the conference or participation.


The text is written by:

Jessica Storbjörk, Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer, and Director of the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD), Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University

Tuulia Lerkkanen, PhD Candidate, Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University

Ulrika Winerdal, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University