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


Dr. David R. Williams is the Norman Professor of Public Health and Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also a Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His prior faculty appointments were at Yale University and the University of Michigan. An internationally recognized social scientist, his research has enhanced our understanding of the complex ways in which socioeconomic status, race, stress, racism, health behavior and religious involvement can affect health. He is the author of more than 500 scientific papers and the Everyday Discrimination Scale that he developed is the most widely used measure of discrimination in health studies. Dr. Williams is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He has been ranked as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences, worldwide, and as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.
He directed the South African Stress and Health Study, the first nationally representative study of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in sub-Sahara Africa. He was also a key member of the scientific team that conducted the largest study of the mental health of the black population in the U.S. and the first U.S. health study to include a large national sample of Blacks of Caribbean ancestry.
He has played a visible, national leadership role in raising awareness levels of inequities in health, including serving as staff director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and a key scientific advisor to the award-winning PBS film series, Unnatural Causes: Is inequality Making Us Sick? His research has been featured in the national print and television media and in his TED Talk.

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. 2021 09. 51(12):2104-2116. 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.