Investigators And Their Projects » Investigator Details:
|Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.|
Department of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School
|Discipline: Medicine; Sociology|
|Expertise: Health OutcomesHealth RisksSocial Networks|
Health in Marriage: Policy Implications of Spousal Illness and DeathAward Year: 2000There are major gaps in our understanding of how morbidity and mortality in one spouse affect the health and life of the other. Our rapidly aging population coupled with increased chronic disease, will likely result in serious health consequences for elderly individuals with ill or dying spouses. In his project, Dr. Christakis conducts an analysis based on observation, theory, and policy of the relationship between marriage and health. His conceptual framework draws on three related theories stress as a source of illness, the role of social support in mitigating disease and mortality, and social capital. Several health policy questions are addressed including: 1) when and how support services might best be delivered to newly-widowed individuals; 2) how to identify individuals at greatest risk; and 3) how marital health effects should be factored into the planning of health care services for the elderly.
Nicholas Christakis is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health and health care. Dr. Christakis is professor of medical sociology in the department of health care policy at Harvard Medical School; he is professor of sociology in the department of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and he is an attending physician in the department of medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Mt. Auburn Hospital.
Dr. Christakis' past work has examined the accuracy and role of prognosis in medicine, ways of improving end-of-life care, and the determinants and outcomes of hospice use. His book on prognosis, Death Foretold: Prophecy and Prognosis in Medical Care, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1999 and has been broadly reviewed and translated into Japanese (in 2006).
Currently, he is principally concerned with health and social networks, and specifically with how ill health, health behavior, health care, and death in one person can influence the same phenomena in others in a person's social network. Some current work is focused on the health benefits of marriage and on how ill health in one spouse can have cascading effects on the other spouse. It seems likely that improving the health of one partner in a marriage can have meaningful effects on the health of the other, and that both parties would value this - in a way that influences health policy. Other work examines a very large social network (of 12,000 people, including family, friends, and neighbors) followed for over 30 years to look broadly at the role of networks in health and health care.
Dr. Christakis received his B.S. degree from Yale University, his M.D. and M.P.H. degree from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Christakis has served on numerous editorial boards (e.g., the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Palliative Medicine, Palliative Medicine[UK], and the American Journal of Sociology) and review committees (e.g., in the US, Australia, and Korea). From 2005-2007, he served as a National Advisory Committee member of the Investigator Awards program. He teaches quantitative and qualitative research design, epidemiology, medical sociology, health services research, and palliative medicine.
Selected Journal Articles:
Elwert, F., Christakis, N.A. The Effect of Widowhood on Mortality by the Causes of Death of Both Spouses, AJPH, 2008, 98, 11, 2092-8.
Christakis, N.A., Allison, P.D. Mortality after the Hospitalization of a Spouse, NEJM, 2006, 354, 7, 719-30.
Christakis, N.A. Social Networks and Collateral Health Effects, BMJ, 2004, 329, 7459, 184-5.
Christakis, N.A., Iwashyna, T.J. The Health Impact of Health Care on Families: A Matched Cohort Study of Hospice Use by Decedents and Mortality Outcomes in Surviving Widowed Spouses, Social Science and Medicine, 2003, 57, 465-75.
Iwashyna, T.J., Christakis, N.A. Marriage, Widowhood, and Health-Care Use, Social Science and Medicine, 2003, 57, 11, 2137-47.