Ronald C. Kessler's research while affiliated with Harvard University and other places

Publications (273)

Article
Introduction Active duty service members transitioning to civilian life can experience significant readjustment stressors. Over the past two decades of the United States’ longest sustained conflict, reducing transitioning veterans’ suicidal behavior and homelessness became national priorities. However, it remains a significant challenge to identify...
Article
Full-text available
Visual components of trauma memories are often vividly re-experienced by survivors with deleterious consequences for normal function. Neuroimaging research on trauma has primarily focused on threat-processing circuitry as core to trauma-related dysfunction. Conversely, limited attention has been given to visual circuitry which may be particularly r...
Article
Hippocampal impairments are reliably associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, little research has characterized how increased threat-sensitivity may interact with arousal responses to alter hippocampal reactivity, and further how these interactions relate to the sequelae of trauma-related symptoms. In a sample of individuals...
Preprint
Full-text available
Most genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of major depression (MD) have been conducted in samples of European ancestry. Here we report a multi-ancestry GWAS of MD, adding data from 21 studies with 88,316 MD cases and 902,757 controls to previously reported data from individuals of European ancestry. This includes samples of African (36% of effect...
Article
Full-text available
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...
Article
Background Only a limited number of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) respond to a first course of antidepressant medication (ADM). We investigated the feasibility of creating a baseline model to determine which of these would be among patients beginning ADM treatment in the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Methods A 2018–2020...
Article
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...
Article
Full-text available
The first year of college may carry especially high risk for onset of alcohol use disorders. We assessed the one-year incidence of alcohol use disorders (AUD) among incoming first-year students, predictors of AUD-incidence, prediction accuracy and population impact. A prospective cohort study of first-year college students (baseline: N = 5843; resp...
Article
Full-text available
Background Most individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) receive either no care or inadequate care. The aims of this study is to investigate potential determinants of effective treatment coverage. Methods In order to examine obstacles to providing or receiving care, the type of care received, and the quality and use of that care in a repre...
Article
Objective: Dissociation, a disruption or discontinuity in psychological functioning, is often linked with worse psychiatric symptoms; however, the prognostic value of dissociation after trauma is inconsistent. Determining whether trauma-related dissociation is uniquely predictive of later outcomes would enable early identification of at-risk traum...
Article
Full-text available
Background Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disease morbidity. Combined treatment with antidepressant medication (ADM) plus psychotherapy yields a much higher MDD remission rate than ADM only. But 77% of US MDD patients are nonetheless treated with ADM only despite strong patient preferences for psychotherapy. This mismatch is...
Article
Full-text available
Background Major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are highly prevalent among university students and predict impaired college performance and later life role functioning. Yet most students do not receive treatment, especially in low-middle-income countries (LMICs). We aim to evaluate the effects of expanding treatmen...
Article
Importance: Claims of dramatic increases in clinically significant anxiety and depression early in the COVID-19 pandemic came from online surveys with extremely low or unreported response rates. Objective: To examine trend data in a calibrated screening for clinically significant anxiety and depression among adults in the only US government benc...
Article
Importance: Approximately one-third of US soldiers who attempt suicide have not received a mental health diagnosis (MH-Dx) before their suicide attempt (SA), yet little is known about risk factors for SA in those with no MH-Dx. Objective: To examine whether premilitary mental health is associated with medically documented SA among US Army soldie...
Article
Full-text available
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...
Article
Background The transition from military service to civilian life is a high-risk period for suicide attempts (SAs). Although stressful life events (SLEs) faced by transitioning soldiers are thought to be implicated, systematic prospective evidence is lacking. Methods Participants in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (ST...
Article
Aims: Longitudinal data on the mental health impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in healthcare workers is limited. We estimated prevalence, incidence and persistence of probable mental disorders in a cohort of Spanish healthcare workers (Covid-19 waves 1 and 2) -and identified associated risk factors. Methods: 8996 healthc...
Article
Background Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is heritable and a potential consequence of exposure to traumatic stress. Evidence suggests that a quantitative approach to PTSD phenotype measurement and incorporation of lifetime trauma exposure (LTE) information could enhance the discovery power of PTSD genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Meth...
Article
Background Depression and anxiety are both prevalent among university students. They frequently co-occur and share risk factors. Yet few studies have focused on identifying students at highest risk of first-onset and persistence of either of these conditions. Methods Multicenter cohort study among Spanish first-year university students. At baselin...
Article
Introduction The ability to predict and prevent homelessness has been an elusive goal. The purpose of this study was to develop a prediction model that identified U.S. Army soldiers at high risk of becoming homeless after transitioning to civilian life based on information available before the time of this transition. Methods The prospective cohor...
Article
Importance: Task sharing, the training of nonspecialist workers with no formal experience in counseling, is a promising strategy for addressing the large gap in treatment for depression in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Objective: To examine the outcomes and moderators of task-shared psychological interventions associated with depress...
Article
Purpose: To investigate the prevalence and predictors of perceived helpfulness of treatment in persons with a history of DSM-IV social anxiety disorder (SAD), using a worldwide population-based sample. Methods: The World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys is a coordinated series of community epidemiological surveys of non-institutio...
Article
Full-text available
Suicide risk is elevated among military service members who recently transitioned to civilian life. Identifying high-risk service members before this transition could facilitate provision of targeted preventive interventions. We investigated the feasibility of doing this by attempting to develop a prediction model for self-reported suicide attempts...
Article
Full-text available
Epigenetic factors modify the effects of environmental factors on biological outcomes. Identification of epigenetic changes that associate with PTSD is therefore a crucial step in deciphering mechanisms of risk and resilience. In this study, our goal is to identify epigenetic signatures associated with PTSD symptom severity (PTSS) and changes in PT...
Preprint
Adverse posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae (APNS) are common among veterans and millions of Americans after traumatic events and cause tremendous burdens for trauma survivors and society. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the challenges in diagnosing and treating APNS symptoms. However, progress has been limited by the subjective...
Article
Full-text available
Background A major component of illness burden is role impairment. As part of the recently-completed Saudi National Mental Health Survey (SNMHS), we compare the number of days out of role in the Saudi population associated with ten core mental disorders assessed in the survey to those associated with ten commonly occurring chronic physical disorder...
Article
Background Fewer than half of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) respond to psychotherapy. Pre-emptively informing patients of their likelihood of responding could be useful as part of a patient-centered treatment decision-support plan. Methods This prospective observational study examined a national sample of 807 patients beginning psy...
Article
Background Mental health treatment is scarce and little resources are invested in reducing the wide treatment gap that exists in the Americas. The regional barriers are unknown. We describe the barriers for not seeking treatment among those with mental and substance use disorders from six (four low- and middle-income and two high-income) countries...
Article
Full-text available
Background: College students face several sources of stress. Self-guided stress management interventions offer an excellent opportunity for scaling up evidence-based interventions for self-management of these stresses. However, little is known about the overall effects of these interventions. Increasing this understanding is essential because self...
Article
Objective: to estimate structural and attitudinal reasons for premature discontinuation of mental health treatment, socio-demographic and clinical correlates of treatment dropout due to these reasons, and to test country differences from the overall effect across the region of the Americas. Methods: World Health Organization-World Mental Health (WM...
Article
Full-text available
Healthcare workers (HCW) are at high risk for suicide, yet little is known about the onset of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) in this important segment of the population in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a multicenter, prospective cohort study of Spanish HCW active during the COVID-9 pandemic. A total of n = 4809 HCW par...
Article
Background Racial and ethnic groups in the USA differ in the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recent research however has not observed consistent racial/ethnic differences in posttraumatic stress in the early aftermath of trauma, suggesting that such differences in chronic PTSD rates may be related to differences in recovery over...
Article
Full-text available
Background Mental healthcare is delivered across service sectors that differ in level of specialization and intervention modalities typically offered. Little is known about the perceived helpfulness of the combinations of service sectors that patients use. Methods Respondents 18 + years with 12-month DSM-IV mental or substance use disorders who sa...
Article
Importance: Half of the people who die by suicide make a health care visit within 1 month of their death. However, clinicians lack the tools to identify these patients. Objective: To predict suicide attempts within 1 and 6 months of presentation at an emergency department (ED) for psychiatric problems. Design, setting, and participants: This p...
Article
Inleiding: Er is weinig bekend over epidemiologische aspecten (prevalentie, comorbiditeit, impact en zorggebruik) van de depressieve stoornis bij universiteitsstudenten. In een descriptief-epidemiologisch onderzoek naar de depressieve stoornis (volgens DSM-IV) bij eerstejaarsstudenten aan de KU Leuven, België, werden de 12-maanden prevalentie, de p...
Article
Background This study investigates associations of several dimensions of childhood adversities (CAs) with lifetime mental disorders, 12-month disorder persistence, and impairment among incoming college students. Methods Data come from the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS). Web-based surveys conducted in nine co...
Article
Full-text available
Common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, often emerge in college students during the transition into early adulthood. Mental health problems can seriously impact students' functioning, interpersonal relationships, and academic achievement. Actively reaching out to college students with mental health problems and offering them intern...
Article
Full-text available
Background A better understanding of the extent to which prior occurrences of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive episode (MDE) predict psychopathological reactions to subsequent traumas might be useful in targeting posttraumatic preventive interventions. Methods Data come from 1306 patients presenting to 29 U.S. emergency de...
Article
Introduction Emotion reactivity (ER) and distress intolerance (DI) may be associated with increased suicide attempt (SA) risk among U.S. Army soldiers. Method In this case–control study, 74 soldiers recently hospitalized for SA (cases) were compared with 133 control soldiers from the same Army installations selected based on either propensity scor...
Article
Full-text available
S Background Suicide is among the leading cause of death in children and adolescents. There are well-known risk factors of suicide, including childhood abuse, family conflicts, social adversity, and psychopathology. While suicide risk is also known to be heritable, few studies have investigated genetic risk in younger individuals. Methods Using p...
Article
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)....
Article
Treatments for depression have improved, and their availability has markedly increased since the 1980s. Mysteriously the general population prevalence of depression has not decreased. This “treatment-prevalence paradox” (TPP) raises fundamental questions about the diagnosis and treatment of depression. We propose and evaluate seven explanations for...
Preprint
Full-text available
BACKGROUND The World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health-International College Student (WMH-ICS) initiative aims to screen for mental health and substance use problems among post-secondary students on a global scale as well as to develop and evaluate evidence-based preventive and ameliorative interventions for this population. The epidemi...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health-International College Student (WMH-ICS) initiative aims to screen for mental health and substance use problems among post-secondary students on a global scale as well as to develop and evaluate evidence-based preventive and ameliorative interventions for this population. This prot...
Article
Full-text available
Background Problematic anger is frequently reported by soldiers who have deployed to combat zones. However, evidence is lacking with respect to how anger changes over a deployment cycle, and which factors prospectively influence change in anger among combat-deployed soldiers. Methods Reports of problematic anger were obtained from 7298 US Army sol...
Article
Full-text available
Aims Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterised by a recurrent course and high comorbidity rates. A lifespan perspective may therefore provide important information regarding health outcomes. The aim of the present study is to examine mental disorders that preceded 12-month MDD diagnosis and the impact of these disorders on depression outcome...
Article
Objective To examine the prevalence of ADHD and the association of comorbid disorders, and multivariate disorder classes with role impairment in college students. Method About 15,991 freshmen (24 colleges, 9 countries, WMH-ICS) (response rate = 45.6%) completed online WMH-CIDI-SC surveys for 6-month ADHD and six 12-month DSM-IV disorders. We exami...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: To illustrate the use of machine learning methods to search for heterogeneous effects of a target modifiable risk factor on suicide in observational studies. The illustration focuses on secondary analysis of a matched case-control study of vitamin D deficiency predicting subsequent suicide. Methods: We describe a variety of machine l...
Article
Full-text available
Background Cross-sectional studies have found that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit deficits in autonomic functioning. While PTSD rates are twice as high in women compared to men, sex differences in autonomic functioning are relatively unknown among trauma-exposed populations. The current study used a prospective design...
Article
Full-text available
Importance Rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) in US soldiers have increased sharply since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and postdeployment posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remains a concern. Studies show that soldiers with greater combat exposure are at an increased risk for adverse mental health outcomes, but little...
Article
The authors review trend and cohort surveys and administrative data comparing prevalence of mental disorders during, versus, and before the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in mental health disparities. Best evidence suggests clinically significant anxiety-depression point prevalence increased by relative-risk (RR) = 1.3 to 1.5 during the pandemic com...
Article
Background : Previous work has indicated that differences in neurocognitive functioning may predict the development of adverse post-traumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae (APNS). Such differences may be vulnerability factors or simply correlates of APNS-related symptoms. Longitudinal studies that measure neurocognitive functioning at the time of traum...
Article
Full-text available
Objective: Major negative life events, such as trauma exposure, can play a key role in igniting or exacerbating psychopathology. However, few disorders are diagnosed with respect to precipitating events, and the role of these events in the unfolding of new psychopathology is not well understood. The authors conducted a multisite transdiagnostic lo...
Article
Full-text available
Background Physician responsiveness to patient preferences for depression treatment may improve treatment adherence and clinical outcomes. Objective To examine associations of patient treatment preferences with types of depression treatment received and treatment adherence among Veterans initiating depression treatment. Design Patient self-report...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose of ReviewWe present biological and psychological factors implicated in psychiatric manifestations of SARS-CoV-2, as well as its neuroinvasive capability and immune pathophysiology.Recent FindingsPreexisting mental illness leads to worse clinical outcomes in COVID-19. The presence of the virus was reported in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) an...
Article
Objectives. To examine associations of current mental and substance use disorders with self-reported gun ownership and carrying among recently separated US Army soldiers. Veterans have high rates of both gun ownership and mental disorders, the conjunction of which might contribute to the high suicide rate in this group. Methods. Cross-sectional sur...
Article
Importance Most previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of depression have used data from individuals of European descent. This limits the understanding of the underlying biology of depression and raises questions about the transferability of findings between populations. Objective To investigate the genetics of depression among individual...
Article
Full-text available
Importance Anger is linked to adverse outcomes in military populations; however, whether pre-enlistment anger attacks are associated with postenlistment mental disorders and suicidality is unknown. Objective To explore the associations of pre-enlistment anger attacks with postenlistment mental health. Design, Setting, and Participants In this obs...
Article
Full-text available
Background The most common treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) is antidepressant medication (ADM). Results are reported on frequency of ADM use, reasons for use, and perceived effectiveness of use in general population surveys across 20 countries. Methods Face-to-face interviews with community samples totaling n = 49 919 respondents in t...
Article
Importance: Clinical trials have identified numerous prescriptive predictors of mental disorder treatment response, ie, predictors of which treatments are best for which patients. However, none of these prescriptive predictors is strong enough alone to guide precision treatment planning. This has prompted growing interest in developing precision t...
Article
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with lower gray matter volume (GMV) in brain regions critical for extinction of learned threat. However, relationships among volume, extinction learning, and PTSD symptom development remain unclear. We investigated subcortical brain volumes in regions supporting extinction learning and fear-potenti...
Article
Objective: The authors sought to identify predictors of imminent suicide attempt (within 30 days) among U.S. Army soldiers following their first documented suicidal ideation. Methods: Using administrative data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, the authors identified 11,178 active-duty Regular Army enlisted sold...