David R Williams's research while affiliated with Harvard University and other places

Publications (792)

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Large racial inequalities exist in the onset, course, and outcomes of illness in the United States and certain other race-conscious countries. Despite our extensive knowledge of the magnitude, trends, and determinants of these social inequalities in health, there is still much that we need to learn about the forces that drive them. This chapter pro...
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Purpose Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals, and LB women specifically, have an increased risk for psychiatric morbidity, theorized to result from stigma-based discrimination. To date, no study has investigated the mental health disparities between LGB and heterosexual AQ1individuals in a large cross-national population-based comparison. T...
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Aim Exposure to traumatic events (TEs) is associated with substance use disorders (SUDs). However, most studies focus on a single TE, and are limited to single countries, rather than across countries with variation in economic, social and cultural characteristics. We used cross-national data to examine associations of diverse TEs with SUD onset, an...
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Background Foreign-born Black and Latina women on average have higher birthweight infants than their US-born counterparts, despite generally worse socioeconomic indicators and prenatal care access, i.e., “immigrant birthweight paradox” (IBP). Residence in immigrant enclaves and associated social-cultural and economic benefits may be drivers of IBP....
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Patient‐reported helpfulness of treatment is an important indicator of quality in patient‐centered care. We examined its pathways and predictors among respondents to household surveys who reported ever receiving treatment for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, post‐traumatic stress disorder, bipolar diso...
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As the science of adversity and resilience advances, and public awareness of the health consequences of stress grows, primary care providers are being increasingly asked to address the effects of adverse experiences on child wellbeing. Given limited tools for assessing these effects early in life, the authors explore how enhanced capacity to measur...
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Psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder) are a leading cause of morbidity and premature mortality and an overlooked health inequity in the United States. European data indicate inequities in incidence, severity, and treatment of psychotic disorders, particularly for Black communities, that appear to be primarily attributa...
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Purpose South Africa has long endured a high prevalence of mental disorders at the national level, and its unique social and historical context could be a contributor to an increased risk of mental health problems. Our current understanding is limited regarding the relative importance of various social determinants to mental health challenges in So...
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Discrimination has consistently been associated with multiple adverse health outcomes. Like other psychosocial stressors, discrimination is thought to impact health through stress-related physiologic pathways including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation, dysregulation of inflammation responses, and accelerated cellular aging. Give...
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Importance: Prior studies found a higher risk of acute cardiovascular disease (CVD) around population-wide psychosocial or environmental stressors. Less is known about acute CVD risk in relation to political events. Objective: To examine acute CVD hospitalizations following the 2020 presidential election. Design, setting, and participants: Thi...
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Life course-informed theories of development suggest it is important to integrate information about positive and negative aspects of the social environment into studies of child and parental wellbeing, including both stressors that compromise health and resources that promote well-being. We recruited a sample of 169 pairs of caregivers and young ch...
Preprint
The primate fovea is specialized for high-resolution spatial and chromatic vision, possessing a unique topography characterized by a pit in which the inner retina and associated vasculature have been excavated, the highest density of cones anywhere in the retina, and a disproportionately large representation in visual cortex. The crucial visual pro...
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Background: Prior studies demonstrated a higher risk of acute cardiovascular disease (CVD) around population-wide psychosocial or environmental stressors. Less is known about the impact of sociopolitical events. The objective of the current study was to examine acute CVD hospitalizations following the 2020 presidential election. Methods: We examine...
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The objective of this paper is to examine associations between multiple measures of discrimination (i.e., everyday, lifetime, and appraised burden) and components of allostatic load (AL). We drew on pooled cross-sectional data from the Biomarker Project of the Midlife in the United States study (n = 2118). Ages ranged from 25 to 84 years and includ...
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Research related to racism and health has evolved in recent decades, with a growing appreciation of the centrality of the social determinants of health, life-course approaches and structural racism, and other upstream factors as drivers of health inequities. Examining how race, class, and structural racism relate to each other and combine over the...
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Background: Studies from armed conflict settings, including South Sudan, have revealed the deleterious mental health impact of exposure to war atrocities. However, there is little consensus on what is meant by war trauma, how it should be measured, and how levels of trauma vary across biological sex. Methods: We used psychometric analyses to mea...
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While racial/ethnic oral health inequities have been documented for many years in the United States, the potential role of racism has not been examined until recently. In fact, the common practice has been to attribute racial/ethnic disparities in oral health to low socioeconomic position and/or the lack of access to care. In contrast, racism is co...
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Background: Hypertension is the leading cardiovascular disease in Africa. It is increasing in prevalence due partly to the epidemiological transition that African countries, including South Africa, are undergoing. This epidemiological transition is characterised by a nutrition transition andurbanisation; resulting in behavioural, environmental and...
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Aim We examined prevalence and factors associated with receiving perceived helpful alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment, and persistence in help-seeking after earlier unhelpful treatment. Methods Data came from 27 community epidemiologic surveys of adults in 24 countries using the World Health Organization World Mental Health surveys (n = 93,843)....
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The purpose of this study was to examine multiple direct and indirect pathways of the association between older age and mental health through COVID-19-related stress perceptions, meaning in life, and forgiveness of situations. Participants were 1,382 U.S. adults who were part of the Harvard Digital Lab for the Social Sciences panel who volunteered...
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All retina-based vision restoration approaches rely on the assumption that photoreceptor loss does not preclude reactivation of the remaining retinal architecture. Whether extended periods of vision loss limit the efficacy of restorative therapies at the retinal level is unknown. We examined long-term changes in optogenetic responsivity of foveal r...
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Background: Treatment guidelines for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are based on a relatively small number of randomized controlled trials and do not consider patient-centered perceptions of treatment helpfulness. We investigated the prevalence and predictors of patient-reported treatment helpfulness for DSM-5 GAD and its two main treatment pa...
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Objectives: To examine the association of perceived discrimination with participant retention and diabetes risk among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Methods: Data were drawn from the Special Diabetes Program for Indians–Diabetes Prevention Demonstration Project ( N = 2553). Results: Perceived discrimination was significantly and negatively as...
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Here, we examine the perspective of triple helix actors (i.e., those in academia, government, and industry) related to the availability of human and financial capital in select Central European ecosystems. The actors perceive the lack of venture capital to be the top reason hindering the development of the biopharmaceutical industry in their region...
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Methods for calculating health indicators profoundly influence understanding of and action on population health and inequities. Age-standardization can be useful and is commonly applied to account for differences in age structures when comparing health indicators across groups. Age-standardized rates have well-acknowledged limitations, including th...
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Racial/ethnic discrimination may contribute to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) risk, but few studies have prospectively examined this relationship among racially/ethnically diverse populations. We analyzed prospective data from 33,833 eligible Sister Study participants enrolled from 2003 to 2009. In a follow-up questionnaire (2008-2012), participan...
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Study objectives: African-Americans have a high burden of poor sleep, yet, psychosocial determinants (e.g., discrimination) are understudied. We investigated longitudinal associations between everyday discrimination and sleep quality and duration among African-Americans (N=3404) in the Jackson Heart Study. Methods: At Exam 1 (2000-2004) and Exam...
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Discrimination is a fundamental determinant of health and health inequities. However, despite the high prevalence of discrimination exposure, there is limited evidence specific to Indigenous populations on the link between discrimination and health. This study employs a validated measure to quantify experiences of everyday discrimination in a natio...
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Substance use is a public health problem that affects the normal physical, neurological, and psychological development of adolescents. Apparently, discrimination is an important variable for explaining the initiation and continued use of alcohol and marijuana. Since most research focused on discrimination based on factors, such as race, ethnicity,...
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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are high in populations of color compared to Whites. High-risk sexual behaviors are widely viewed as the key contributors to the levels of STDs, especially in adolescents and young adults. This article situates the sexual risk behaviors of Black, Indigenous, and other young people of color within the framework o...
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Background: Psychosocial stressors, such as perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms, may shorten telomeres and exacerbate aging-related illnesses. Methods: Participants from the Jackson Heart Study at visit 1 (2000-2004) with LTL data and Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scores (n = 580 men, n = 910 women) were util...
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There is not much evidence on the effects of south–south migration and its consequences on physical and mental health. Our objective was to examine the mediating role of Acculturative Stress in the association between ethnic discrimination and racial discrimination with physical and mental health. This research is a non-experimental, analytical, cr...
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Excessive home cage aggression often results in severe injury and subsequent premature euthanasia of male laboratory mice. Aggression can be reduced by transferring used nesting material during cage cleaning, which is thought to contain aggression appeasing odors from the plantar sweat glands. However, neither the composition of plantar sweat nor t...
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The health status of children in the United States varies by racial and ethnic, shaped by an interrelated set of systems that disadvantage children of color in the United States. In this article, we argue for a broad view of resilience, in both research and policy, that views resilience not just as a property of individuals but also as a characteri...
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Introduction Having a higher purpose in life has been linked to favorable health outcomes. However, little research has examined whether the purpose–health association persists across different levels of SES. This study assesses whether the association between higher purpose in life and lower mortality is similar across the levels of SES. Methods...
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Background Racial disparities in cognitive function are well documented, but factors driving these disparities remain underexplored. This study aims to quantify the extent to which cumulative stress exposures across the life course explain Black–White disparities in executive function and episodic memory in middle-aged and older adults. Methods Da...
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Inequalities in health outcomes impose substantial human and economic costs on all societies—and the relation between early adversity and lifelong well-being presents a rich scientific framework for fresh thinking about health promotion and disease prevention broadly, augmented by a deeper focus on how racism influences disparities more specificall...
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This study assessed whether race moderates the association between flourishing and all-cause mortality. We used panel data from the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS) (1995–2016) (n = 2851). Approximately 19% of White respondents and 23% of Black respondents of the baseline sample died over the course of the 21-year study period (n = 564)....
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Background: Perceived discrimination is associated with worse mental health. Few studies have assessed whether perceived discrimination (i) is associated with the risk of psychotic disorders and (ii) contributes to an increased risk among minority ethnic groups relative to the ethnic majority. Methods: We used data from the European Network of N...
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Racial disparities in health-care access, quality and outcomes are pervasive and persistent. Racism is a fundamental driver of racial disparities. Individuals and institutions in the health-care system must prioritize addressing racism as their professional responsibility through training, support and inclusion. Racial disparities in health-care ac...
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Stress is a common belief among breast cancer patients and the public to explain variation in breast cancer incidence. Epidemiological studies interrogating the relationship between stress and cancer have reported mixed results. The impact of the topic and the lack of consensus has sparked this review of the literature to investigate gaps in knowle...
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Evidence of an association between psychosocial stress and mortality continues to accumulate. However, despite repeated calls in the literature for further examination into the physiological and behavioral pathways though which stress affects health and mortality, research on this topic remains limited. This study addresses this gap by employing a...
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Although socioeconomic status partly explains ethnic disparities seen with covid-19, cultural and structural racism also adversely affect health, argue Mohammad Razai and colleagues © Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to.
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Background Awareness of burnout and its implications within the medical field has been growing. However, an understanding of the prevalence and consequences of burnout among underrepresented minority (URM), specifically underrepresented minority in medicine (UiM) populations, is not readily available.Objective To examine literature investigating bu...
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Objective Idiopathic macular telangiectasia (MacTel) is considered primarily a vascular disease affecting juxtafoveal retinal capillaries. However, recent evidence suggests that neuronal changes may occur early in disease development. We used high-resolution adaptive optics retinal imaging to elucidate the foveal cone photoreceptor changes at a cel...
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Background: It is well established that racism is a fundamental contributor to poor health and inequities. There is consistent evidence of high exposure to discrimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous Australian) peoples, but impacts have not been fully quantified, in part due to limited measurement tools. We aim to valid...
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An established body of research indicates that discrimination is associated with increased symptoms of anxiety and negative affect. However, the association cannot be interpreted unambiguously as an exposure effect because a common set of genetic factors can simultaneously contribute to increased liability for symptoms of anxiety, negative affect,...
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Background: The ability to resist adverse outcomes, or demonstrate resilience after exposure to trauma is a thriving field of study. Yet ongoing debate persists regarding definitions of resilience, generalizability of the extant literature, neurobiological correlates, and a consensus research agenda. Objectives: To address these pressing questions,...
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Objective Ideal cardiovascular health (ICH) is associated with greater longevity and reduced morbidity, but no research on ICH has been conducted in Jamaica. We aimed to estimate the prevalence of ICH in urban Jamaica and to evaluate associations between ICH and community, household, and individual socioeconomic status (SES). Design Cross-sectiona...
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Previous research suggests that stressors may trigger the onset of acute cardiovascular disease (CVD) events within hours to days, but there has been limited research around sociopolitical events such as presidential elections. Among adults ≥18 y of age in Kaiser Permanente Southern California, hospitalization rates for acute CVD were compared in t...
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Purpose: The purpose was to use Twitter to conduct online surveillance of negative sentiment towards Mexicans and Hispanics during the 2016 United States presidential election, and to examine its relationship with mental well-being in this targeted group at the population level. Methods: Tweets containing the terms Mexican(s) and Hispanic(s) wer...
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Background and Objectives Perceived discrimination is a risk factor for poor mental health. However, most studies measure discrimination at one time point, which does not account for heterogeneity in the cumulative patterning of exposure to discrimination. To address this gap, we examine the association between discrimination trajectories and depre...
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Objective: Light-skin disadvantage (hypothesized to result from resentment by darker-skinned individuals) has been described in majority African-American populations but is less studied than dark-skin disadvantage. We investigated both light- and dark-skin disadvantage in a contemporary African-American study population. Methods: We used skin re...
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The prevalence of harmful bias and discrimination within the health professions is staggering. Moreover, literature consistently demonstrates their persistence and their negative impact on patient care. Several professional codes of conduct for health professionals highlight the importance of addressing these forces in practice. However, despite th...
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Bias and discrimination are embedded within the history, norms, and practices of the health professions institution and their negative impacts are pervasive in the health professions learning environment. These forces impair the ability to take care of patients, recruit and support diverse health care providers, and prepare the next generation of c...
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Background The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer behavioral guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Cleaning (e.g., cleaning surfaces, washing and sanitizing hands) and containing (e.g., covering coughs, keeping distance from others, especially sick people) behaviors are recommended. Purpose To dev...
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Many individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia state that family relationships are a primary facilitator of their recovery. However, they also report higher rates of early life adversities, typically in their family environments. We used modified Grounded Theory on 20 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with adults (half ethnic minorities, half wom...
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Stem cell-based transplantation therapies offer hope for currently untreatable retinal degenerations; however, preclinical progress has been largely confined to rodent models. Here, we describe an experimental platform for accelerating photoreceptor replacement therapy in the nonhuman primate, which has a visual system much more similar to the huma...
Preprint
Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer behavioral guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Cleaning (e.g., cleaning surfaces, washing and sanitizing hands) and containing (e.g., covering coughs, keeping distance from others, especially sick people) behaviors are recommended. Purpose: To de...
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The high prevalence of obesity among Black Americans warrants additional investigation into its relationship with socioeconomic position (SEP), sex, and ethnicity. This cross-sectional study utilizes 2001–2003 data from the National Survey of American Life, a nationally representative sample of 3570 African-Americans and 1621 Caribbean-Blacks aged...
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Exposure to discrimination or unfair treatment has emerged as an important risk factor for illness and disease that disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities. Discriminatory experiences may operate like other stressors in that they activate physiological responses that adversely affect the maintenance of homeostasis. Research suggests...
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This study examines racial/ethnic differences in perceived need for mental health treatment, barriers to treatment receipt, and reasons for dropout. Data are from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Studies, a pooled dataset from three U.S. nationally-representative adult samples. Among respondents with a 12-month psychiatric disorder who re...
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Purpose: The development of new approaches to human vision restoration could be greatly accelerated with the use of nonhuman primate models; however, there is a paucity of primate models of outer retina degeneration with good spatial localization. To limit ablation to the photoreceptors, we developed a new approach that uses a near-infrared ultraf...
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Purpose The purpose was to use Twitter to conduct online surveillance of negative sentiment towards Mexicans and Hispanics during the 2016 United States presidential election, and to examine its relationship with mental well-being in this targeted group at the population level. Methods Tweets containing the terms Mexican(s) and Hispanic(s) were co...