Challenges facing society – University of Copenhagen

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Research > Strengths > Interdisciplinary strengths > Health & lifestyle > Challenges facing society

Challenges facing society

Over the past half century, physical activity in the form of physical work has almost disappeared, creating a polarisation in society, with more people now physically active outside work, but the inactive section of the population significantly more inactive than previously. To address these challenges, the University is contributing new knowledge generated through interdisciplinary collaboration and research that considers both the detail – e.g. genes and proteins – and the major social perspective in subjects such as ethics, law, culture, identity, etc.

The University is helping to tackle the massive obesity problem through world-class research into metabolism and genuinely interdisciplinary approaches to lifestyle, health, priorities and responsibilities throughout life. By studying molecules, cells, people and the effects of diet, sleep and physical activity, etc., combined with studies about which individual and social factors and barriers determine our lifestyles, it will not only be possible to reduce obesity but also metabolic related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and strokes.

People are living longer and this leads to an increase in diseases such as cancer and conditions like dementia and, subsequently, a lower quality of life. Research into the processes that govern ageing in the form of the body's cell-, brain- and muscle function, combined with research into our perception of old age and ageing, can help people attain a better quality of life, throughout their lives.

The University of Copenhagen focuses on disease prevention, including the importance of diet, smoking, alcohol and exercise. By combining disciplines such as public health, ethnology, molecular biology, immunology and muscle physiology, researchers are studying the health benefits of exercising muscles and paving the way for information and support to the general public to encourage healthier patterns of activity. Research is also being conducted into which social and physical frameworks best promote a healthy lifestyle.

Animal models are being studied, which provide insight into the genetic causes of a whole series of conditions, including metabolic and age-related ailments. These studies are also paving the way for the development of new medicines and more differentiated diagnostics and treatment of diseases in animals and humans.

Robust clinical research and national population surveys can also shed light on the interactions between genes and lifestyle, and between lifestyle and disease, thus helping promote individualised prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, human biologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, historians, ethicists, philosophers, ethnologists, anthropologists, lawyers and economists are working together in large interdisciplinary initiatives, strengthened by highly specialised fields such as stem cell research, metabolism and protein research and research into medical physiology and genetics, molecular ageing, medical ethics and welfare technologies.