Head shot of Lisa Berkman

Lisa Berkman, PhD


Lisa F. Berkman is the director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCPDS), and the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan School). Berkman is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist whose extensive work has focused on social and policy influences on health outcomes. She is noted for identifying the effects of social networks on mortality risks that helped define the field of social determinants of health in the late 1970s, and for broadening that area of study with investigations of how social conditions related to inequality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, working conditions, and social isolation influence health and aging. Much of her current work relates to aging societies and workplace and well-being policies and practices, such as what employers can do to improve employee and family health in addition to corporate outcomes.

Berkman is currently a co-principal investigator (co-PI) of Health and Aging in Africa:  Longitudinal Studies in South Africa (HAALSA), a decade-long, collaborative program project funded by the National Institute on Aging that has been awarded funding for its 4th and 5th wave of survey data collection and analysis. Berkman and her colleagues from Harvard Medical School and University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa examine the biological, social, and economic factors and public policies that interact to influence the course of dementia and cognitive decline among older adults in South Africa, as well as major diseases and disorders (cardiometabolic disease and HIV) that impact cognitive function. She is also a core member of the Work and Well-Being Initiative, a multi-disciplinary research and policy initiative established in conjunction with MIT to develop and implement evidence-based workplace changes that foster worker well-being.

She has authored/co-authored over 300 scholarly publications and book chapters and is a co-editor of the seminal textbook “Social Epidemiology” (Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2014), and the multi-chaptered volume “Overtime: America’s Aging Workforce and the Future of Working Longer” (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Berkman is president (2023) of the Population Association of America (PAA), a non-profit, professional organization dedicated to supporting high-quality population research, and is a commissioner on the National Academy of Medicine’s Global Roadmap for Health Longevity. She is a member of the Conseil Scientifique de l’Institut de Recherche en Sante Publique (IReSP) and has been actively involved in French population studies including the GAZEL study and CONSTANCES. She is a past president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research (SER) and the Association of Population Centers (APC).

From 1995–2008, Dr. Berkman was chair of the Harvard Chan School’s Department of Society, Human Development and Health (now the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences) and was appointed director of the HCPDS by Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman in October 2007. From 2002–2016, she served as co-site director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program, as well as the Sloan Fellowship on Aging and Work (2016–2022), and mentored over 30 postdoctoral fellows. From 2017–2020, she was faculty director of the PhD program in population health sciences at Harvard Chan School. Prior to her tenure at Harvard, Berkman was head of the department of chronic disease epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine. She holds an MA and PhD in epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley.