Distinguished Fellow
Research field / main research area
・Social epidemiology – the influence of social capital and income distribution on population health.
・Applications of behavioral economics to public health.
Research field / main research area
・Social epidemiology – the influence of social capital and income distribution on population health.
・Applications of behavioral economics to public health.
Related research projects

Educational Background

1985 MB ChB (with Distinction) University of Otago, New Zealand
1987 Dip.Comm.H. (with Distinction) University of Otago, New Zealand
1990 MCCMNZ College of Community Medicine of New Zealand
1991 Ph.D. University of Otago, New Zealand (Epidemiology)

Career Background

1990-1991 Lecturer in Epidemiology, Dept of Community Health, Wellington School of Medicine, New Zealand.
1992-1997 Assistant Professor, Harvard School of Public Health
1997-2002 Associate Professor, Harvard School of Public Health
2003- Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health
2008-2018 Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
2014- John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology

Major Publications

Social capital and social cohesion

I have made important contributions to the link between health and “social capital”, defined as the resources accessed through social networks. I am particularly interested in the health effects of social cohesion in residential communities, workplaces and schools. More recently, I have extended my research to examine the longitudinal impacts of community social cohesion on resilience and recovery in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Related publications:
1: Hikichi H, Aida J, Tsuboya T, Kondo K, Kawachi I. Can Community Social Cohesion Prevent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Aftermath of a Disaster? A Natural Experiment From the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Am J Epidemiol. 2016 May 15;183(10):902-10. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv335\. PMCID: PMC4867157

2. Hikichi H, Aida J, Kondo K, Subramanian SV, Kawachi I. Social Capital Prevents Cognitive Decline in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster: A Natural Experiment from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Lancet Planetary Health (2017 in press). PMCID pending.

3. Moore S & Kawachi I. Twenty years of social capital and health research: a glossary. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 May;71(5):513-517. doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-208313 (non NIH funded).

4. Villalonga-Olives E & Kawachi I. The measurement of bridging social capital in population health research. Health Place. 2015 Nov;36:47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.09.002 (non NIH funded).

Disaster resilience and aging-relevant health outcomes

I am the PI of the Iwanuma Study (R01AG042463-04), which was established with the objective to investigate the role of social cohesion in promoting disaster resilience among older survivors of the March 11, 2011, earthquake & tsunami in Japan. Leveraging a unique quasi-experimental design -- using data on survivors that pre-dates the disaster -- we have sought to documented the risk and protective factors for disaster-related health outcomes (PTSD, cognitive decline, functional disability) in an aging population.

Relevant publications:
1. Hikichi H, Aida J, Kondo K, Tsuboya T, Matsuyama Y, Subramanian SV, Kawachi I. Increased risk of dementia in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Oct 24. pii: 201607793. PMCID: PMC5111665.

2. Hikichi, H., Sawada, Y., Tsuboya, T., Aida, J., Kondo, K., Koyama, S., & Kawachi, I. Residential relocation and change in social capital: A natural experiment from the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Science Advances. (2017 in press). PMCID pending.

3. Tsuboya T, Aida J, Hikichi H, Subramanian SV, Kondo K, Osaka K, Kawachi I. Predictors of decline in IADL functioning among older survivors following the Great East Japan earthquake: A prospective study. Soc Sci Med. 2017 Mar;176:34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.01.022. PMCID: PMC5373851.

4. Ikeda A, Tanigawa T, Charvat H, Wada H, Shigemura J, Kawachi I. Longitudinal effects of disaster-related experiences on mental health among Fukushima nuclear plant workers: The Fukushima NEWS Project Study. Psychol Med. 2017 Apr 4:1-11. doi: 10.1017/S0033291717000320.(non-NIH funded).

Collateral health effects of social ties

I’m also interested in the collateral health effects of social ties – for example, the impacts of social integration on suicide risk, as well as the protective influence of religious service attendance. Other investigations have explored the role of family bereavement on the health of survivors (explored through Swedish registry data), birth order effects on health among siblings, the effects of marital transitions on health behaviors (in large panel datasets), and the spillover effects of care-giving on the health of care-givers.

Related publications:
1: Tsai AC, Lucas M, Sania A, Kim D, Kawachi I. Social integration and suicide mortality among men: 24-year cohort study of U.S. health professionals. Annals Intern Med 2014 Jul 15;161(2):85-95. doi: 10.7326/M13-1291. (non-NIH-funded).

2: Tsai AC, Lucas M, Kawachi I. Association Between Social Integration and Suicide Among Women in the United States. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Jul 29. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1002.(non-NIH-funded work)

3. Vander Weele TJ, Li S, Tsai AC, Kawachi I. Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Aug 1;73(8):845-51. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1243. (non NIH-funded work).

Neighborhood influences on health

With colleagues in Finland and Japan, I have been interested in examining neighborhood contextual influences on health outcomes, including the impacts of local food environment and built environment characteristics on physical activity, obesity, and other health-related behaviors (alcohol & tobacco consumption). We are particularly interested in designs that improve on causal inference to overcome endogenous neighborhood effects – e.g. fixed effects approaches in which changes in neighborhood environment (natural experiments) are examined in relation to changes in the behaviors/health of residents.

Related publications:
1. Halonen JI, Pulakka A, Stenholm S, Pentti J, Kawachi I, Kivimäki M, Vahtera J. Change in neighborhood disadvantage and change in smoking behaviors in adults: a longitudinal, within-individual study. Epidemiology. 2016 Jun 22.

2. Duncan, Dustin & Ichiro Kawachi (eds). Neighborhoods and Health, 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press (2018 in press).



2000-2004 Honorary Fellow in the Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand
2005-present Honorary Professor, The University of Hong Kong School of Public Health
2008 Healthway Visiting Fellow, University of Western Australia
2011-present Visiting Professor, Teikyo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
2011-present Visiting Professor, Mie University, Japan.
2014-2016 Visiting Professor, Shiga University, Japan.
2016-present Visiting Professor, Taipei Medical University, Taiwan
2018-present Visiting Professor, Tokyo Medical & Dental University
2019-present Visiting Professor, Okayama University School of Medicine


Elected member of U.S. National Academy of Medicine
Elected Honorary Fellow of Royal Society of New Zealand
Honorary Doctor of Science (2019) Australian National University
Co-Editor in Chief, Social Science & Medicine