Apr 24, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Jason Houle
Jason Houle, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin. He recently published a study online in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine that finds association between depressive symptoms and mortality is due to later health problems, not prior physical health conditions.
Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to look at this particular topic?
Jason Houle: I first started looking at this topic in graduate school, when I took a course on event history models (a quantitative method often used when studying mortality). Up to that point, most of my research focused on the social determinants of mental health, but I had become increasingly interested in the link between mental and physical health. While there’s a long literature on how depression influences physical health (and vice versa), as a demographer, I was really interested in the link between depression and mortality. When researching this topic, I discovered a rather large literature that showed that people who experience depression tend to die younger, on average, than those who do not. However, it wasn’t clear from prior research why, exactly, depressed people tend to die younger than those who are not. Though it makes sense that depression is linked with mortality, the reasons behind it remained a puzzle, and I thought it would make an interesting project.