EMMY – JTC2016


Short introduction (aim, goal of project, when did this project start?)

The EMMY Project is an interdisciplinary and mixed methods comparative study on impact of welfare systems on mental wellbeing among the oldest old in Finland, Italy, Norway and Spain, including aspects such as equity, social inclusion, empowerment and participation.

The project will delineate the concept of mental wellbeing at old age by qualitative methods, and will dissect the links between welfare systems and mental wellbeing by quantitative methods. It will support the exchange of good policies between EU Member States by performing case studies of existing welfare policies and systems in the four participating countries, and it will develop a new research-based tool for assessing the mental wellbeing impact of welfare policies in old people.

The overarching aim of this interdisciplinary, comparative research project is to improve our knowledge and understanding of how different welfare models and related policies, as well as health and social care service approaches, can benefit from adaptation in order to target mental wellbeing in the oldest-old.

The project will support the development of social welfare models in order to incorporate a change of focus from mental disorders to mental wellbeing among old people. This is important, not only because of the ageing of the European population, but also because of increasing pressures on public finances, within and beyond Europe.

The specific objectives of the EMMY project are:

1) to delineate the concept of mental wellbeing at old age and the links between welfare policies and such wellbeing,

2) to support the exchange of public policies with positive impacts on mental wellbeing at old age through thorough analysis of existing policies and

3) to develop a new research-based tool for assessing the mental wellbeing impact of welfare policies in old people.

The EMMY project started in January 2017 and will run for a period of three years. The EMMY consortium consists of five partners from four European countries: National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland; Åbo Akademi University (ÅA), Finland; SINTEF, Norway; The Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Spain; University of Verona (UNIVR), Italy.


Kristian Wahlbeck (Project Leader) National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland
Johanna Cresswell-Smith (Project Coordinator) National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland
Anna Forsman Åbo Akademi University (ÅA), Finland
Jorid Kalseth SINTEF, Norway
Marian Ådnanes SINTEF, Norway
Thomas Halvorsen SINTEF, Norway
Marta Miret The Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Spain
Natalia Martín-María The Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Spain
Elvira Lara The Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Spain
Francesco Amaddeo University of Verona (UNIVR), Italy
Valeria Donisi University of Verona (UNIVR), Italy
Laura Grigoletti University of Verona (UNIVR), Italy

The EMMY project will contribute towards a shift of focus from mental illness towards a stronger focus on wellbeing.  Research shows that mental wellbeing is a core component of general wellbeing in all ages, however in spite of this evidence, mental wellbeing has been largely neglected in social policy research. The importance of mental wellbeing is especially prominent in old age, when it provides the basis for high level of functioning and active ageing.  Translating this into social welfare models will consolidate this shift and contribute to improved quality of life for society as a whole. What kind of impact on the society is expected?

The EMMY project is especially timely, as welfare models in Europe need to be recast to deal with one of the major societal challenges of today: population ageing. Welfare models will have to use resources more efficiently to create wellbeing among the old, without unduly sacrificing key principles such as solidarity. EMMY will provide policy makers with case studies and comparative analyses and provide access to good policy practices to promote mental wellbeing.

The EMMY Project is highly policy-relevant due to the importance of mental wellbeing in old age, the growing aging population, and the close links between welfare models and population mental health. We need reliable, comparable information on the impact of welfare models on mental wellbeing particularly in old age.  These welfare models protect vulnerable people but also support their wellbeing, functional ability, and support active ageing.

The EMMY project will provide practical tools and easily accessible evidence for policy makers to support the decision making and policy development process.  The EMMY project will produce a mental wellbeing impact tool that will enable policy makers to assess the mental wellbeing impact of policy changes, as well as tools to monitor the policy outcomes.  This interactive mental health impact assessment tool will be freely available in electronic format for decision makers and other stakeholders. The impact assessment tool allows for a novel and accessible approach in for assessing the impact of wellbeing on welfare policies specifically in relation to the oldest old, benefitting a range of health and social care service approaches. Knowledge on the impact of different aspects of public policies specifically on the mental wellbeing of old people will provide concrete guidelines. Thus, the EMMY project can potentially contribute towards better mental wellbeing for our growing aging population.

Which phase of your project are you at the moment? 

The EMMY project is largely running to plan. Preliminary tasks are underway for all three aforementioned objectives.

In relation to objective 1), in order to delineate the concept of mental wellbeing at old age and to examine links between welfare policies and wellbeing, focus groups are currently underway in all four countries. Ethical approval for the focus group component of the study has been attained by the majority of the partners, and focus groups have begun. Materials are expected to be ready for analysis following transcription and translation by autumn 2017.

Alongside this, and in relation to objective 2, a scoping review will be completed in the coming months including relevant legislations, policies, practices, initiatives, programmes and reports from Member States governments and agencies and other national/local relevant organisations. Policies in both health and social domains will be included and are currently under collection.

The scoping review will result in four case studies describing existing policies with a specific emphasis on the effectiveness, unintended effects, equity, cost, feasibility and acceptability of the welfare model in relation to the mental wellbeing of old people. Additionally, it will identify promising existing welfare policies to supporting mental wellbeing.

Finally, first steps towards objective 3) have begun by way of a literature review to establish the theoretical fundaments for the mental wellbeing impact assessment tool.

Did your project receive some external feedback (from possible stakeholder, national journals, etc…)?

The EMMY project strives to have contact with interdisciplinary organisations along the entirety of the project. The focus groups which are currently being held in all counties have also helped establish contacts with organisations such as NGOs, housing organisations and other institutions which may serve as important stakeholders throughout the project. The EMMY project also has a wide European network including ties to the Horizon 2020-funded project Ageing Trajectories of Health: Longitudinal Opportunities and Synergies (ATHLOS), as well as the NORFACE ERA-NET Welfare States Future research network, both of which can provide a solid base for dissemination and collaboration.

What are the phases planned for the immediate future? 

Currently, work is being done to lay the foundation for the EMMY project, i.e. defining the concept of wellbeing though the focus group study, and elaborating both the scoping review and the literature review. The following phase of the project will make sense of all of the gathered data by way of data analyses and interpretation in order to develop the practical tools and generate a comparative report. European stakeholders from different sectors will be involved in building and piloting the tool.



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