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Research and Practice

Psychiatric Epidemiology

Mental and behavioral disorders impose a significant burden on public health, and are among the leading causes of disability worldwide. Faculty in the Program of Psychiatric Epidemiology use the tools of epidemiology and biostatistics to understand the occurrence and distribution of mental and behavioral disorders across people, space and time, and to investigate the causes and consequences of these disorders in order to develop more effective intervention strategies to treat and prevent them and to promote mental health. Faculty are involved in a range of population-based studies of mental and behavioral disorders that span the life course from in utero to the elderly, typically with studies that are prospective and developmentally oriented.

Psychiatric Epidemiology is fundamental to all of the research in the Department of Mental Health, and faculty in this program area interact with and participate in most if not all the other research areas. In addition, faculty in this area collaborate with investigators from faculty from other departments in the Schools of Public Health, Medicine and Nursing. There is a long history of productive collaboration with faculty from the Department of Biostatistics and the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine. These faculty have joined together to conduct landmark studies in Psychiatric Epidemiology, and this rich tradition continues today.

Psychiatric Epidemiology

Our Work in Action

Autism Spectrum Disorder Enriched Risk (ASD-ER) ECHO Cohort

Researchers in the Department of Mental Health lead the Autism Spectrum Disorder Enriched Risk Cohort (ASD-ER) that is part of the larger NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) project. The ASD-ER cohort is a collaborative of many studies of participants at high-familial risk for ASD and collects a unique biosample -- children's baby teeth -- to explore what substances a child was exposed to while in the womb.

child holding a baby tooth
abstract image with 3 sections depicting progression of aging and cognitive declinen
Psychiatric Epidemiology

Our Work in Action

Stress, Mental Disorders, Accelerated Aging, and Dementia: A 35 Year Cohort Study

Faculty in the Department of Mental Health are currently conducting a follow-up study of participants in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey (ECA) 35 years after initial participation to learn how stress-related exposures as associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Psychiatric Epidemiology

Our Work in Action

Netting Prevention Intervention Butterfly Effects: An Integrative Data Analysis Investigating the Long-Term Cross-Over Effects of Randomized, School-Based Prevention Programs on Adult Mental Health

Our faculty seek to link and harmonize data from 6 randomized controlled trails with preventive interventions focused on reducing disruptive and aggressive behavior in early childhood. We seek to understand the long-term impacts of such programs on outcomes through early adulthood, including on suicide, anxiety, and depression.

students observing another student standing on their head

Faculty Spotlight

Heather Volk
Associate Professor
Mental Health

Heather Volk, PhD, MPH, seeks to identify factors that relate to the risk and progression of neurodevelopment disorders.

Leslie Adams
Assistant Professor
Mental Health

Leslie Adams, PhD, MPH, researches the intersection of gender, race, and mental health to examine socially-determined mental health disparities in Black communities.

Training and Funding Opportunities


Major Depression in the Population: A Public Health Approach

This course is about the framework of public health as applied to the specific psychiatric disorder of major depression.