Country profile

Sweden is a northern European country with 10.1 millions inhabitants. The country is divided into 21 counties with their own administrative boards. The counties are further divided into a total of 290 municipalities. The healthcare system is mostly government-funded and governance is highly decentralized. The system is financed through county and municipal-level tax. Sweden has the third highest health spending in the EU as a share of GDP (11.0% in 2015), and the fifth highest in per capita spending EUR 3 932.

With its highly developed economy, Sweden was ranked number nine in the UN’s Human Development Index in 2010. Furthermore, the same year the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden as the second most competitive country in the world. In 1995 Sweden became part of the EU, although not in the Euro. Sweden is has a largely developed welfare state wit a high level of redistribution. Swedish people live longer and in better health than the average EU citizen. Sweden has the fifth highest life expectancy in the EU and the number of years spent in good health is high. Life expectancy at birth was 82.2 years in 2015 and healthy life expectancy at 65 is the highest among all EU countries for both men and women. However, the prevalence of smoking is three times higher and obesity is over 50% more prevalent among the population with the lowest level of education compared to those with the highest level of education. Currently, the government has a strong focus on reducing inequalities in risk factors to health.


Policy responses

Health inequalities are being addressed at different governmental levels in Sweden, and the overall goal – across all ministries and sectors – is to achieve societal conditions for good health for all on equal conditions. The Swedish government started its work to formulate goals to reduce health inequalities – in an explicit manner – during the mid 90s. Nowadays health inequalities are being addressed from a broad social determinants point of view and wide cross-sectoral collaboration has been put in place.

Sweden’s low levels of preventable deaths for causes such as lung cancer, alcohol-related deaths, and road traffic accidents can partly be explained by strong public health policies. A recent major effort in public health is the 2014 declaration by the government to eliminate all avoidable health gaps between population groups within one generation. Towards this objective, a Commission for Equity in Health was established in June 2015. The Commission presented their report in June 2017, describing the importance of a broad approach across many sectors of society, beyond health care and health risk factors, to close health gaps in the population. The government has set a goal to eliminate avoidable health status gaps between population groups within one generation, but the action plan to achieve this ambitious goal has not been clearly spelled out yet.


An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in Sweden working on health inequality issues:

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Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in Sweden. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.

  • FRUSAM (2009 -2010) The project adopts a clear position and acknowledges a sustainability-based approach to reducing health inequalities.


Are you aware of any other key resources that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!

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