David Williams
Primary Faculty

David Williams

Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Other Positions

Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Affiliate of the Department of Sociology

Sociology -Other Academic

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health in the School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

African and African American Studies -Sr. Faculty

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences


My research interests include race, socioeconomic status (SES), and health; racism and health; racial discrimination, stress, and health; social influences on mental health; and religious involvement and health. During an academic career spanning three decades at Yale, Michigan and Harvard, I have developed a strong record of theoretical analysis and empirical research focused on understanding the ways in which psychosocial factors can affect health and contribute to socioeconomic and racial disparities in health. My research has shown how location in social contexts and structures shape behavioral patterns and other psychosocial vulnerabilities and strengths, and unfold over the life course, to affect health and access to and utilization of care. I have also examined the role of residential segregation and other factors linked to geographic location that can affect racial and SES disparities in health. I have been increasingly interested in how interactions between biological susceptibilities and exposures in the psychosocial and physical environment can affect SES and racial/ethnic inequalities in health. I have been involved in the development of comprehensive but brief batteries of stressors for use in large epidemiological studies. The Everyday Discrimination Scale that I developed is one of the most widely used measures of discrimination in health studies. Much of my research has involved the analysis of large epidemiological studies, and I have extensive training in quantitative research strategies and substantial research experience analyzing large, complex data sets.

B.Th., 1976
University of the Southern Caribbean , Maracas Valley, Trinidad

M.Div., 1979
Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI

M.P.H., 1981, Health Education
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA

M.A., 1984, Sociology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Ph.D., 1986, Sociology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Elected Member, National Academy of Medicine
National Academy of Medicine

Decade of Behavior Research Award

Ranked as one of the Top Ten Most Cited Researchers in the Social Sciences in the past decade
ISI Essential Science Indicators

Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Ranked as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2008
The Journal of Black Issues in Higher Education

Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology
American Sociological Association

Stephen Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health
New York Academy of Medicine

Top Blacks in Healthcare
BlackDoctor.org and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions

Lemuel Shattuck Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Public Health
Massachusetts Public Health Association

Ranked one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds Psychiatry/Psychology & Social Sciences
Thomson Reuters

Distinguished Leadership in Psychology Award, Committee on Socioeconomic Status
American Psychological Association

Leonard I. Pearlin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociological Study of Mental Health
American Sociological Association

Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences

St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold)
Government of St. Lucia

Goodwill Ambassador2020-2023
Government of St. Lucia


Patterns of care and dropout rates from outpatient mental healthcare in low-, middle- and high-income countries from the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative.

Fernández D, Vigo D, Sampson NA, Hwang I, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Al-Hamzawi AO, Alonso J, Andrade LH, Bromet EJ, de Girolamo G, de Jonge P, Florescu S, Gureje O, Hinkov H, Hu C, Karam EG, Karam G, Kawakami N, Kiejna A, Kovess-Masfety V, Medina-Mora ME, Navarro-Mateu F, Ojagbemi A, O'Neill S, Piazza M, Posada-Villa J, Rapsey C, Williams DR, Xavier M, Ziv Y, Kessler RC, Haro JM.

Psychol Med. 2020 Apr 28. 1-13. PMID: 32343221

Corrigendum to "The epidemiology of alcohol use disorders cross-nationally: Findings from the World Mental Health Surveys" [Addict. Behav. 102 (2020) 106128].

Glantz MD, Bharat C, Degenhardt L, Sampson NA, Scott KM, Lim CCW, Al-Hamzawi A, Alonso J, Andrade LH, Cardoso G, De Girolamo G, Gureje O, He Y, Hinkov H, Karam EG, Karam G, Kovess-Masfety V, Lasebikan V, Lee S, Levinson D, McGrath J, Medina-Mora ME, Mihaescu-Pintia C, Mneimneh Z, Moskalewicz J, Navarro-Mateu F, Posada-Villa J, Rapsey C, Stagnaro JC, Tachimori H, Have MT, Tintle N, Torres Y, Williams DR, Ziv Y, Kessler RC.

Addict Behav. 2020 Jul. 106:106381. PMID: 32209298


The Age of Trauma

A global pandemic. Horrific acts of police violence. Political upheaval. The climate crisis.The opioid epidemic. With sources of stress piling up and intersecting in new ways, a growing number of mental health experts are looking to root-cause solutions.

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