About the editors

Søren Ventegodt, MD, MMedSci, EU-MSc is the director of the independent Quality of Life Research Center in Copenhagen, and Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine and Sexology, Copenhagen. He teaches holistic medicine, psychiatry and sexology at the Nordic School of Holistic Health and Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic. From 2006-2008 he was the director for and lecturer at Inter-University College, International Campus, Denmark in collaboration with Inter-University Consortium for Integrative Health Promotion, Inter-University College Graz, Austria and the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. 2002-2012 he taught quality of life in the Danish Army. He is a popular speaker throughout Scandinavia with more than 1000 presentations. As holistic physician he has treated over 1000 chronically ill patients and given more than 20.000 hours of holistic therapy. He has published numerous scientific or popular articles and a number of books on holistic medicine, quality of life and quality of working life. He is reviewer for more than 10 scientific journals. 130 of his scientific papers on quality of life, holistic medicine and psychosomatics are listed on www.pubmed.gov making him one of the most productive scientists in these fields. His most important scientific contributions are the theory of holistic healing, the integrated quality of life (QOL) theory, the comprehensive SEQOL questionnaire, the very short QOL5 questionnaire, the life mission theory, and the ongoing Danish Quality of Life Research Survey, 1991-94 in connection with follow-up studies of the Copenhagen Perinatal Birth Cohort 1959-61 initiated at the University Hospital of Copenhagen by the late professor of pediatrics, Bengt Zachau-Christiansen, MD, PhD. The recent years he has also done research in effectiveness, safety and sustainably of the world’s different types of medicine. Email: ventegodt@livskvalitet.org

About the host

About the Quality of Life Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Quality of Life Research Center in Copenhagen was established in 1989, when the physician Søren Ventegodt succeeded in getting a collaboration started with the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Copenhagen in response to the project “Quality of life and causes of disease.” An interdisciplinary “Working group for the quality of life in Copenhagen” was established, and when funds were raised in 1991, the University Hospital of Copenhagen (Rigshospitalet) opened its doors for the project. The main task was a comprehensive follow-up of 9,006 pregnancies and the children delivered during 1959-61. This Copenhagen Perinatal Birth Cohort was established by the a gynecologist and a pediatrician, the late Aage Villumsen, MD, PhD and the late Bengt Zachau-Christiansen, MD, PhD, who had made intensive studies during pregnancy, early childhood and young adulthood. The cohort was during 1980-1989, directed by the pediatrician Joav Merrick, MD, DMSc, who established the Prospective Pediatric Research Unit at the University Hospital of Copenhagen and managed to update the cohort for further follow-up register research, until he moved to Israel. The focus was to study quality of life related to socio-economic status and health in order to compare with the data collected during pregnancy, delivery and early childhood. The project continued to grow, and later in 1993, the work was organized into a statistics group, a software group that developed the computer programs for use in the data entry and a group responsible for analysis of the data.

Quality of life research center at the university medical center

The Quality of Life Center at the University Hospital generated grants, publicity with research and discussions among the professionals leading to the claim that quality of life was significant for health and disease. It is obvious that a single person cannot do much about his/her own disease, if it is caused by chemical defects in the body or outside chemical-physical influences. However, if a substantial part of diseases are caused by a low quality of life, we can all prevent a lot of disease and operate as our own physicians, if we make a personal effort and work to improve our quality of life. A series of investigations showed that this was indeed possible. This view of the role of personal responsibility for illness and health would naturally lead to a radical re-consideration of the role of the physician and also influence our society.

Independent quality of life research center

In 1994, The Quality of Life Research Center became an independent institution located in the center of the old Copenhagen. Today, the number of full-time employees has grown. The Research Center is still expanding and several companies and numerous institutions make use of the resources, such as lectures, courses, consulting or contract research. The companies, which have used the competence of the research center and its tools on quality of life and quality of working life, include IBM, Lego, several banks, a number of counties, municipalities, several ministries, The National Defense Center for Leadership and many other management training institutions, along with more than 300 public and private companies. It started in Denmark but has expanded to involve the whole Scandinavian area. The center’s research on the quality of life has been through several phases from measurement of quality of life, from theory to practice over several projects on the quality of life in Denmark, which have been published and received extended public coverage and public impact in Denmark and Scandinavia. The data is now also an important part of Veenhoven’s Database on Happiness at Rotterdam University in the Netherlands.

Quality of life of 10,000 Danes

There is a general consensus that many of the diseases that plague the Western world (which are not the result of external factors such as starvation, microorganisms, infection or genetic defects) are lifestyle related and as such, preventable through lifestyle changes. Thus, increasing time and effort is spent on developing public health strategies to promote “healthy” lifestyles. However, it is not a simple task to identify and dispel the negative and unhealthy parts of our modern lifestyle even with numerous behavioural factors that can be readily highlighted as harmful, like the use of alcohol, use of tobacco, the lack of regular exercise and a high-fat, low-fibre diet. However, there is more to Western culture and lifestyle than these factors, and if we only focus on them, we can risk overlooking others. We refer to other large parts of our life, for instance the way we think about and perceive life (our life attitudes, our perception of reality and our quality of life) and the degree of happiness we experience through the different dimensions of our existence. These factors or dimensions can now, to some degree, be isolated and examined. The medical sociologist Aaron Antonovsky (1923-1994) from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, who developed the salutogenic model of health and illness, discussed the dimension, “sense of coherence,” that is closely related to the dimension of “life meaning,” as perhaps the deepest and most important dimension of quality of life. Typically, the clinician or researcher, when attempting to reveal a connection between health and a certain factor, sides with only one of the possible dimensions stated above. A simple, one-dimensional hypothesis is then postulated, like for instance, that cholesterol is harmful to circulation. Cholesterol levels are then measured, manipulated, and ensuing changes to circulatory function monitored. The subsequent result may show a significant, though small, connection, which supports the initial hypothesis and in turn becomes the basis for implementing preventive measures, like a change of diet. The multi-factorial dimension is, therefore, often overlooked. In order to investigate this multifactorial dimension, a cross-sectional survey examining close to 10,000 Danes was undertaken in order to investigate the connections among lifestyle, quality of life and health status by way of a questionnaire-based survey. The questionnaire was mailed in February 1993, to 2,460 persons aged between 18-88, randomly selected from the CPR (Danish Central Register) and 7,222 persons from the Copenhagen Perinatal Birth Cohort 1959-61. A total of 1,501 persons between the ages 18-88 years and 4,626 persons between the ages 31-33 years returned the questionnaire (response rates 61.0% and 64.1% respectively). The results showed that health had a stronger correlation to quality of life (r= 0.5, p0.0001), than it had to lifestyle (r=0.2, p 0.0001). It was concluded that preventable diseases could be more effectively handled through a concentrated effort to improve quality of life rather than through n approach that focuses solely on the factors that are traditionally seen to reflect an unhealthy lifestyle.

Collaborations across borders

The project has been developed during several phases. The first phase, 1980-1990, was about mapping the medical systems of the pre-modern cultures of the world, understanding their philosophies and practices and merging this knowledge with Western biomedicine. A huge task seemingly successfully accomplished in the Quality of Life (QOL) theories, and the QOL philosophy, and the most recent theories of existence, explaining the human nature, and especially the hidden resources of man, their nature, their location in human existence and the way to approach them through human consciousness. Søren Ventegodt visited several countries around the globe in the late 1980s, and analysed about ten pre-modern medical systems and a dozen of shamans, shangomas and spiritual leaders noticing most surprisingly similarities, allowing him together with about 20 colleagues at the QOL Study Group at the University of Copenhagen to model the connection between QOL and health. This model was later further developed and represented in the integrative QOL theories and a number of publications. Based on this philosophical breakthrough, the Quality of Life Research Center was established at the University hospital. Here a broad cooperation took place with many interested physicians and nurses from the hospital. A QOL conference in 1993, with more than 100 scientific participants discussed the connection between QOL and the development of disease and its prevention. Four physicians collaborated on the QOL population survey 1993. For the next ten years, the difficult task of integrating biomedicine and the traditional medicine went on, and Søren Ventegodt again visited several centers and scientists at the Universities of New York, Berkeley, Stanford and other institutions. He also met people like David Spiegel, Dean Ornish, Louise Hay, Dalai Lama and many other leading persons in the field of holistic medicine and spirituality. Around the year 2000, an international scientific network started to take form with an intense collaboration with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Israel, which has now developed the concept of “Holistic Medicine.” We believe that the trained physician today has three medical toolboxes: the manual medicine (traditional), the biomedicine (with drugs and pharmacology) and the consciousness-based medicine (scientific, holistic medicine). What is extremely interesting is that most diseases can be alleviated with all three sets of medical tools, but only the biomedical toolset is highly expensive. The physician, using his hands and his consciousness to improve the health of the patient by mobilising hidden resources in the patient, can use his skills in any cultural setting, rich or poor.

New research

Since The Quality-of-Life Research Center became independent, a number of new research projects were launched. One was a project that aimed to prevent illness and social problems among the elderly in one of the municipalities by inspiring the elderly to improve their quality of life themselves. Another was a project about quality of life after apoplectic attacks at one of the major hospitals in Copenhagen, and the Danish Agency for Industry granted funds for a project about the quality of work life.

Another project that took many resources over two decades, from 1990-2010, were the development of a psychosomatic theory that could explain the clinical finding: that improvement of the patients’ quality of life and happiness could lead to spontaneous healing of cancer and coronary heart disease. The aim was to conquer sufficient understand for this knowledge to be used in clinical holistic medicine.

The project ended successfully with the conclusion that the optimal medicine is close to the traditional medicines from our different continents; we found that there is a deep wisdom in the ways the early and pre-modern cultures treated there patients.

This research led naturally to a deep exploration of the traditional medicine on the continents that happened from 2010-2018, where the best use of bodywork was studied in Asia and Australia (Aboriginal healers of the rain forest), the best used of talk-therapy /psychodynamic psychotherapy with focus on feelings, emotions and sexuality) was studied in UK and USA, and the optimal use of medical hallucinogens where studied in Peru (shamanism with Ayahuasca). Studies in South Africa and Botswana shed further light into the understanding of psychosomatics and the use of traditional symbolism in healing.

From 2018 the sustainability of the world’s different kinds of medicine has been the focus of research. Comprehensive comparative analyses have led to the conclusion that the traditional Hippocratic medicine, used for more than two thousand years in Europe, which is a psychosomatic medicine, might be a good alternative for our choice of medicine in the future. This kind of medicine is effective for most diseases, it is absolutely safe as it has no side and adverse effects, and it is sustainable as it is a people-to people medicine. “The doctor is medicine” could be a slogan for this traditional but great medicine.