Photo of David R. Williams,  PhD, MPH

David R. Williams, PhD, MPH

Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health

Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health
Phone: (617) 432-6807

David R. Williams, PhD, MPH

Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health


  • Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health



  • Member, Center Scientific Council

Research Abstract

Dr. Williams’s theoretical and empirical research has focused on racial and socioeconomic differentials in health. He has devoted considerable attention to identifying how life experiences directly linked to race affect health status and can explain racial differences in health. This has included developmental work on how perceptions of racial bias can affect health status. He has contributed to several integrative summaries outlining the conditions under which discrimination at both the interpersonal and the institutional level can adversely affect multiple indicators of health. Williams has also investigated how coping resources and strategies ranging from social support and religiosity to psychological attributes and health behaviors can modify the effects of stress on health. Much of his work has involved the analysis of large epidemiological studies. He has extensive experience with quantitative research strategies and in analyzing large, complex data sets. His current research includes studying the correlates of the health of Black Caribbean immigrants in the U.S., examining how race-related stressors (racial discrimination in the U.S. and exposure to torture during Apartheid in South Africa) can affect health, examining the biological pathways by which stress is related to health, and assessing the ways in which religious involvement can affect health.


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  • Van Dyke ME, Kau'i Baumhofer N, Slopen N, Mujahid MS, Clark CR, Williams DR, Lewis TT. Pervasive Discrimination and Allostatic Load in African-American and White Adults. Psychosom Med 2020. PubMed
  • Smith KW, Krieger N, Kosheleva A, Urato M, Waterman PD, Williams DR, Carney DR, Chen JT, Bennett GG, Freeman E. A Structural Model of Social Determinants of the Metabolic Syndrome. Ethn Dis 2020; 30:331-338. PubMed
  • Cooper LA, Beach MC, Williams DR. Confronting Bias and Discrimination in Health Care-When Silence Is Not Golden. JAMA Intern Med 2019. PubMed
  • Misra S, Gelaye B, Koenen KC, Williams DR, Borba CPC, Quattrone D, Di Forti M, La Cascia C, La Barbera D, Tarricone I, Berardi D, Szöke A, Arango C, Tortelli A, de Haan L, Velthorst E, Bobes J, Bernardo M, Sanjuán J, Santos JL, Arrojo M, Del-Ben CM, Menezes PR, Selten JP, Jones PB, Kirkbride JB, , Rutten BPF, van Os J, Murray RM, Gayer-Anderson C, Morgan C. Early Parental Death and Risk of Psychosis in Offspring: A Six-Country Case-Control Study. J Clin Med 2019. PubMed
  • Kantor ED, Haneuse S, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Williams DR, Signorello LB, Rider JR. Socioenvironmental adversity and risk of prostate cancer in non-Hispanic black and white men. Cancer Causes Control 2019. PubMed
  • Cuevas AG, Trudel-Fitzgerald C, Cofie L, Zaitsu M, Allen J, Williams DR. Placing prostate cancer disparities within a psychosocial context: challenges and opportunities for future research. Cancer Causes Control 2019. PubMed
  • Williams DR, Cooper LA. Reducing Racial Inequities in Health: Using What We Already Know to Take Action. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019. PubMed
  • Williams DR, Lawrence JA, Davis BA. Racism and Health: Evidence and Needed Research. Annu Rev Public Health 2019. PubMed
  • Cuevas AG, Ortiz K, Lopez N, Williams DR. Assessing racial differences in lifetime and current smoking status & menthol consumption among Latinos in a nationally representative sample. Ethn Health 2018. PubMed
  • Baumhofer NK, Panapasa SV, Francis Cook E, Roberto CA, Williams DR. Sociodemographic factors influencing island foods consumption in the Pacific Islander Health Study. Ethn Health 2017. PubMed
  • Siddiqi A, Shahidi FV, Ramraj C, Williams DR. Associations between race, discrimination and risk for chronic disease in a population-based sample from Canada. Soc Sci Med 2017; 194:135-141. PubMed
  • Evans CR, Williams DR, Onnela JP, Subramanian SV. A multilevel approach to modeling health inequalities at the intersection of multiple social identities. Soc Sci Med 2017. PubMed
  • Malat J, Mayorga-Gallo S, Williams DR. The effects of whiteness on the health of whites in the USA. Soc Sci Med 2017. PubMed
  • Williams DR, Medlock MM. Health Effects of Dramatic Societal Events - Ramifications of the Recent Presidential Election. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:2295-2299. PubMed
  • Campbell JD, Lathan C, Sholl L, Ducar M, Vega M, Sunkavalli A, Lin L, Hanna M, Schubert L, Thorner A, Faris N, Williams DR, Osarogiagbon RU, van Hummelen P, Meyerson M, MacConaill L. Comparison of Prevalence and Types of Mutations in Lung Cancers Among Black and White Populations. JAMA Oncol 2017. PubMed
  • Colen CG, Ramey DM, Cooksey EC, Williams DR. Racial disparities in health among nonpoor African Americans and Hispanics: The role of acute and chronic discrimination. Soc Sci Med 2017. PubMed
  • Thornton RL, Glover CM, Cené CW, Glik DC, Henderson JA, Williams DR. Evaluating Strategies For Reducing Health Disparities By Addressing The Social Determinants Of Health. Health Aff (Millwood) 2016; 35:1416-23. PubMed
  • Bailey ZD, Williams DR, Kawachi I, Okechukwu CA. Incarceration and adult weight gain in the National Survey of American Life (NSAL). Prev Med 2015; 81:380-6. PubMed
  • Dean LT, Subramanian SV, Williams DR, Armstrong K, Zubrinsky Charles C, Kawachi I. Getting Black Men to Undergo Prostate Cancer Screening: The Role of Social Capital. Am J Mens Health 2015. PubMed
  • Cooper LA, Ortega AN, Ammerman AS, Buchwald D, Paskett ED, Powell LH, Thompson B, Tucker KL, Warnecke RB, McCarthy WJ, Viswanath KV, Henderson JA, Calhoun EA, Williams DR. Calling for a bold new vision of health disparities intervention research. Am J Public Health 2015; 105 Suppl 3:S374-6. PubMed
  • Haas JS, Linder JA, Park ER, Gonzalez I, Rigotti NA, Klinger EV, Kontos EZ, Zaslavsky AM, Brawarsky P, Marinacci LX, St Hubert S, Fleegler EW, Williams DR. Proactive tobacco cessation outreach to smokers of low socioeconomic status: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med 2015; 175:218-26. PubMed
  • Johnson TP, Shariff-Marco S, Willis G, Cho YI, Breen N, Gee GC, Krieger N, Grant D, Alegria M, Mays VM, Williams DR, Landrine H, Liu B, Reeve BB, Takeuchi D, Ponce NA. Sources of Interactional Problems in a Survey of Racial/Ethnic Discrimination. Int J Public Opin Res 2015; 27:244-263. PubMed
  • Dutra LM, Williams DR, Kawachi I, Okechukwu CA. Racial and non-racial discrimination and smoking status among South African adults 10 years after apartheid. Tobacco Control 2014. PubMed
  • Dutra LM, Kim SS, Williams DR, Kawachi I, Okechukwu CA. Worksite safety climate, smoking, and the use of protective equipment by blue-collar building workers enrolled in the MassBUILT smoking cessation trial. J Occup Environ Med 2014; 56:1082-7. PubMed
  • Dean L, Subramanian SV, Williams DR, Armstrong K, Charles CZ, Kawachi I. The role of social capital in African-American women's use of mammography. Soc Sci Med 2014; 104:148-56. PubMed
  • Dutra LM, Williams DR, Gupta J, Kawachi I, Okechukwu CA. Human rights violations and smoking status among South African adults enrolled in the South Africa Stress and Health (SASH) study. Soc Sci Med 2014; 105:103-11. PubMed
  • Duncan DT, Kawachi I, Subramanian SV, Aldstadt J, Melly SJ, Williams DR. Examination of how neighborhood definition influences measurements of youths' access to tobacco retailers: a methodological note on spatial misclassification. Am J Epidemiol 2014; 179:373-81. PubMed
  • Slopen N, Kontos EZ, Ryff CD, Ayanian JZ, Albert MA, Williams DR. Psychosocial stress and cigarette smoking persistence, cessation, and relapse over 9-10 years: a prospective study of middle-aged adults in the United States. Cancer Causes Control 2013; 24:1849-63. PubMed
  • Troost JP, Barondess DA, Storr CL, Wells JE, Obaid Al-Hamzawi A, Andrade LH, Bromet E, Bruffaerts R, Florescu S, de Girolamo G, de Graaf R, Gureje O, Haro JM, Hu C, Huang Y, Karam AN, Kessler RC, Lepine JP, Matschinger H, Medina-Mora ME, O'Neill S, Posada-Villa J, Sagar R, Takeshima T, Tomov T, Williams DR, Anthony JC. An updated global picture of cigarette smoking persistence among adults. J Epidemiol Glob Health 2013; 2:135-44. PubMed
  • Panapasa SV, Mau MK, Williams DR, McNally JW. Mortality patterns of Native Hawaiians across their lifespan: 1990-2000. Am J Public Health 2010; 100:2304-10. PubMed
  • Zhou Y, Chen L, Barlogie B, Stephens O, Wu X, Williams DR, Cartron MA, van Rhee F, Nair B, Waheed S, Pineda-Roman M, Alsayed Y, Anaissie E, Shaughnessy JD. High-risk myeloma is associated with global elevation of miRNAs and overexpression of EIF2C2/AGO2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010; 107:7904-9. PubMed
  • Hunte HE,Williams DR. The Association Between Perceived Discrimination and Obesity in a Population-Based Multiracial and Multiethnic Adult Sample. Am J Public Health 2009; 99:1285-92. PubMed
  • Williams DR,Mohammed SA. Discrimination and racial disparities in health: evidence and needed research. J Behav Med 2008; 32:20-47. PubMed
  • Shariff-Marco S, Gee GC, Breen N, Willis G, Reeve BB, Grant D, Ponce NA, Krieger N, Landrine H, Williams DR, Alegria M, Mays VM, Johnson TP, Brown ER. A mixed-methods approach to developing a self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination measure for use in multiethnic health surveys. Ethn Dis 2010; 19:447-53. PubMed
  • Williams DR,Costa MV,Odunlami AO,Mohammed SA. Moving upstream: how interventions that address the social determinants of health can improve health and reduce disparities. J Public Health Manag Pract 2008; 14 Suppl:S8-17. PubMed
  • Haas JS,Earle CC,Orav JE,Brawarsky P,Keohane M,Neville BA,Williams DR. Racial segregation and disparities in breast cancer care and mortality. Cancer 2008; 113:2166-72. PubMed
  • Williams DR. Racial/ethnic variations in women's health: the social embeddedness of health. Am J Public Health 2008; 98:S38-47. PubMed
  • Williams DR,Neighbors HW,Jackson JS. Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: findings from community studies. Am J Public Health 2008; 98:S29-37. PubMed
  • Williams DR. The health of men: structured inequalities and opportunities. Am J Public Health 2008; 98:S150-7. PubMed
  • Williams DR,Gonzalez HM,Williams S,Mohammed SA,Moomal H,Stein DJ. Perceived discrimination, race and health in South Africa. Soc Sci Med 2008; 67:441-52. PubMed
  • Duncan DT, Kawachi I, Melly SJ, Blossom J, Sorensen G, Williams DR. Demographic disparities in the tobacco retail environment in Boston: a citywide spatial analysis. Public Health Rep 2014; 129:209-15. PubMed