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´╗┐Psychiatric Epidemiology

Image of Dr. MezukThe psychiatric epidemiology research program in the Division of Epidemiology is focused on examining the determinants of psychiatric and behavioral health conditions in the population and how those determinants change over the life span. This research aims to understand the interface between behavior and physiology to integrate social, psychological, and biological approaches to understanding mental health and illness over the life course. Active collaborations with the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics  (VIPBG) and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research  (RCGD) and Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities  (CIAHD) contribute to this effort. 
Current projects in this research area include :

  1. Stress, Coping, and Mental Health Disparities: This project is a partnership with investigators at the University of Michigan CIAHD to examine the role of stress-coping behaviors on racial disparities in mental and physical health. Other studies in this vein include the Stress and Sugar Study, an ongoing pilot investigation of the role of stress reactivity and glucose metabolism among African Americans with pre-diabetes funded by the VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR). Dr. Jeanne Concha is expanding on this work to investigate how cultural factors influence the relationship between stress and diabetes risk.
  2. Depression, Inflammation, and Diabetes: Exploring Shared Etiopathology: This project leverages genetically-informed data (e.g., twin and family studies) to examine the interplay of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the comorbidity between depression and type 2 diabetes. This work is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH093642-A1). As part of this project we are examining the relationship between depressive symptoms and expression of immune-related genes in collaboration with Dr. Steve Cole at UCLA. 
  3. Neighborhood context, depression, and type 2 diabetes: This project aims to understand how contextual environmental characteristics (e.g., neighborhood deprivation, social capital, walkability, access to goods and services) influences the risk of depression, type 2 diabetes, and their comorbidity. This work is a partnership with Dr. Kristina Sundquist of the Centre for Primary Care Research  at Lund University in Malmo, Sweden, and is funded by the National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (DK8356430-A1).

Other areas of research in this program include:

  1. Depression and Frailty in Later Life: An exploration of the interrelationship between depression and frailty among older adults originally sponsored by the VCU Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Program. Work in this area is continuing through support by the National Institute of Aging (PI: Matthew Lohman). Related projects include investigations of the predictors and consequences of mobility for health and functioning in later life, a collaboration led by Dr. Moon Choi.
  2. Suicide Risk in Senior Living Facilities: Although older adults have the highest suicide risk, little is known about the epidemiology of suicide risk in senior living facilities (assisted living, nursing homes). This project uses data from the Virginia Violent Death Reporting System (VDRS), in partnership with the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, to explore the incidence and risk factors for suicide among older adults in senior living communities. 

The goal of this line of research is to inform interventions which reflect an integrative approach to health to effectively reduce the burden of mental disorders in mid and late-life. 
Additional information on this research is posted at the website for the Group for Research on the Epidemiology of Mobility, Aging, and Psychiatry (GREMAP).