Bruce G. Link Ph.D.

Special Lecturer
Department of Epidemiology
Columbia University
Email: Discipline: Sociology Expertise: Health Care Inequalities, Mental Health, Public and Population Health

Investigator Award
The Concept of Fundamental Causes in Explaining Social Inequities in Health
Award Year: 1995 Drs. Phelan and Link believe that certain social conditions, such as socioeconomic status (SES), may be fundamental social causes of health and disease. Their health and policy relevance which involve access to resources such as money, knowledge, power, prestige and the social connections that determine the extent to which people are able to avoid risks for morbidity and mortality are explored. The project elaborates beyond the initial focus on SES, by incorporating theory on social capital, social class, power, and prestige. It also examines the social patterning of disease by race, ethnicity, gender, age, and marital status. A case study approach is used to assess the validity of the concept, looking at whether fundamental social causes have a persistent effect on health despite changes in risk factors, diseases, and interventions. The issue of whether reducing inequality in resources can be expected to improve overall health in a population or merely to redistribute it, is also explored.


Bruce G. Link is a special lecturer of epidemiology and sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University and a research scientist at New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Link received his Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in 1980 and a Master's degree in biostatistics, also from Columbia. Dr. Link's interests are centered on topics in psychiatric and social epidemiology. He has written on the connection between socioeconomic status and health, homelessness, violence, stigma, and discrimination. Currently he is conducting research aimed at understanding health disparities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, the consequences of social stigma for people with mental illnesses, and the connection between mental illnesses and violent behaviors. He is the director of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program, director of the Center for Youth Violence Prevention, co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Inequalities and Health, and co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program Columbia site. Dr. Link was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002. He was the recipeint of the 2007 Leo G. Reeder Award from the American Sociological Association's Medical Sociology Section, which recognizes distinguished scholarly contributions to the field of medical sociology, as well as excellence in teaching, mentoring, and training. Dr. Link received the American Public Health Association's 2007 Rema Lapouse Award for outstanding contributions to the scientific understanding of the epidemiology and control of mental disorders. He is a member of the National Advisory Committee of the RWJF Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research program.