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How is Populism and Health Associated in Europe (PHASE)? A multilevel analysis of the bi-directional interrelationship between populism and ill health

Project description

The link between populism and ill health

The rise of populist parties in Europe represents a serious challenge for intellectuals and policymakers. The origins of and reasons for populist success in many countries are analysed in debates over general and specific issues relating to populist participation in government. It has been observed that discrimination against vulnerable communities is associated with populist power practices, and that this is having an impact on public health. However, there is no cross-country research on the links between ill health and populism. The EU-funded PHASE project will examine the relationship between services for those with ill health and populists in power, and consider whether ill health might be a warning sign for the future of democracies. In addition, it will assess the public health impact of populists in power.


The recent surge in populism marks a new phase of European politics posing fundamental challenges to scholars and the policy community. Some argue that existing nationalist and authoritarian attitudes are driving populism. Others posit that it is rooted in liberal institutions’ failure to deliver equal life chances. Once in power, populists tend to discriminate against precarious communities and question the role of expertise in governance. However, there is no systematic cross-country research on the bi-directional association between ill health and populism. The project contributes to the existing knowledge in two ways. Firstly, it crosscuts scholarly polarisations on the causes of populism by posing the original question of whether individuals’ health might be an early warning sign for the health of democracies in Europe. Secondly, it extends the literature on the impact of populist governance by asking who the winners and losers of populists in power in terms of health in Europe are. In answer to the first question, the project creates a longitudinal, hierarchical cross-country panel dataset, nesting individuals in EU regions, and measures the impact of ill health on populist support after 2000. In answer to the second question, the project adopts a coding scheme for populist governments in Europe and assesses the variegated impact of populism on peoples’ health using dynamic multilevel modelling. Finally, through a small-N case study, the project analyses the populism – ill health mechanism in detail. The project offers theoretically innovative and methodologically rigorous, cutting-edge contributions to sociology, political science, and public health, as well as to the public debate on populism through a set of outreach activities. The project will significantly expand the scientific and transferable skills of the fellow through a personalised training programme, collaborative research, and secondment to a think tank.



Net EU contribution
€ 183 473,28
20136 Milano

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Nord-Ovest Lombardia Milano
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 183 473,28