Lisa Berkman

Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology
Director, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies

Contact Information

9 Bow Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Phone: 617.495.8498

If you need assistance, please contact the Harvard School of Public Health’s Office of Communications at 617-432-3952. You may also contact Dr. Berkman’s assistant, Claudette Agustin, at 617-495-8498 or via email at Claudette Agustin.


Dr. Berkman is an internationally-recognized social epidemiologist whose work focuses extensively on social and policy influences on health outcomes. Her research has been oriented towards understanding inequalities in health related to socioeconomic status, different racial and ethnic groups, and social networks, support and isolation. The majority of her work is devoted to identifying the role of social networks and support in predicting declines in physical and cognitive functioning, onset of disease and mortality, especially related to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease. In addition, she has devoted much of her work to understanding determinants of population health by comparing European countries with the U. S. She is currently a member of the Conseil Scientifique de l’Institut de Recherche en Sante Publique (IReSP) in France and a member of IOM. She has been actively involved since 1994 on the GAZEL study, a cohort of 20,000 French employees of EDF-GDF, the large natural gas-electricity company, and also with a study involving workplace practices and employee and family health.

Dr. Berkman is the author of several books and over 200 publications. She co-edited Social Epidemiology, the first textbook on the topic, plus Neighborhoods and Health (both with Ichiro Kawachi).

Prior to becoming director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Dr. Berkman was Chair of the Department of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1995 – 2008. She is also the former head of the Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at Yale University.

Current Research Projects

Evaluating the Health Benefits of Workplace Policies and Practices-Phase II (PI)
Although the prevalence of “family-friendly” policies in US workplaces has increased dramatically, few have been studied using scientifically sound designs. To address this, NIH and CDC formed the Work, Family, and Health Network (WFHN). During Phase 1, WFHN designed and conducted multiple pilot and feasibility studies. For Phase 2, the WFHN has been called upon to implement an innovative intervention based on Phase I pilot studies that is designed to increase family-supportive supervisor behaviors and employee control over work, and to evaluate the intervention using a group randomized experimental design.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Health and Society Scholars Program (co-PI)
This program trains scholars in the social determinants of health through a tightly knit, interdisciplinary training program integrating social, behavioral and biological sciences with a rich historical perspective.

Center for Global Demography of Aging (co-investigator)
The Center for the Global Demography of Aging provides support for research on demographic change and aging throughout the world, with a particular focus on developing countries. The center supports existing research at Harvard University as well as encourages the development of new research on global health.

Longitudinal Aging Study in India (co-investigator)
The long-term goals of this research are to develop a multidisciplinary, nationally representative survey of aging, health, and retirement in India and to provide the foundation for new, rigorous, multidisciplinary studies of aging that will inform policy making and advance scientific knowledge.

Professional Affiliations

Member, Institute of Medicine (elected 2001)
Member, US Health and Retirement Study Advisory Board
Member, SHARE Advisory Board
Member, ELSA Advisory Board
Member, Macarthur Foundation Aging Society Network
Foreign Member, Academia Europaea
Member, American Epidemiological Society (elected 1991)

Courses Taught

SHH245 Social and Behavioral Research Methods Part I (Fall)


B.A. (Sociology),1972, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
M.S. (Epidemiology), 1975, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Ph.D. (Epidemiology), 1977, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Media Inquiries

Lisa Berkman welcomes media inquiries on the following subjects:

  • Health inequalities
  • Social networks and isolation
  • Work/Family workplace policies