Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., is the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Director of the Human Flourishing Program and Co-Director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University. He holds degrees from the University of Oxford, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University in mathematics, philosophy, theology, finance, and biostatistics. His methodological research is focused on theory and methods for distinguishing between association and causation in the biomedical and social sciences, and, more recently, on measurement theory and the importance of incorporating ideas from causal inference and from analytic philosophy into measure development and evaluation. His empirical research spans psychiatric and social epidemiology; the science of happiness and flourishing; and the study of religion and health, including both religion and population health and the role of religion and spirituality in end-of-life care. He is the recipient of the 2017 Presidents’ Award from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS). He has published over three hundred papers in peer-reviewed journals, and is author of the books Explanation in Causal Inference (2015) and Measuring Well-Being (2020), both published by Oxford University Press.
My methodologic research concerns how we distinguish between association and causation in the biomedical and social sciences and the study of the mechanisms by which causal effects arise. The current focus of my work includes the analysis of pathways, assessments of interaction, and the evaluation of spillover effects in which one person's exposure will affect the outcomes of another. My research employs counterfactual theory and ideas from causal inference to clarify and formalize concepts used by epidemiologists, biomedical researchers and social scientists. This methodology in causal inference is relevant for comparative effectiveness research, evaluating and improving policy recommendations, and explaining mechanisms.
My empirical work has been in the areas of perinatal, psychiatric and genetic epidemiology; various fields within the social sciences; and the study of religion and health. In perinatal epidemiology, I have worked on evaluating prenatal care indices, on the analysis of trends in birth outcomes, and on assessing the role of preterm birth in mediating the effects of prenatal exposures on mortality outcomes. In genetic epidemiology, I have been studying gene-environment interaction and the pathways by which genetic variants operate. In psychiatric epidemiology, I have been studying the feedback and inter-relationships between depression, loneliness and subjective well-being. My work in the social sciences has included the study of educational interventions, micro-finance programs, social network effects, and judicial decisions. My work in religion and health is oriented towards assessing the mechanisms by which religion and spirituality affect health outcomes.