The Lerner Center’s research and our affiliates’ research projects are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary and involve quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches to examine and explain social, spatial, structural, and policy determinants of population health, community health, and health disparities. Lerner Center affiliates have particular expertise in health and wellbeing trends among certain sub-populations (e.g., veterans, individuals with disabilities, individuals who use drugs, racial/ethnic minorities, rural areas) and on life course, contextual, and policy drivers of health and mortality. Our current and recent projects are described below.
Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19 on Drug Use and Overdose in Upstate New York
Drug overdoses have been on the rise in much of the country, including many areas of New York state since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020. The Lerner Center is conducting surveys and interviews to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug use and wellbeing among persons who use drugs in Upstate New York. Read more about this study.
New York Opioid Court Treatment Enhancement Project
With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the Lerner Center is evaluating substance use treatment and recovery support service systems treating individuals with opioid use disorders (OUDs) who are participating in a sample of Opioid Courts in New York State. This project includes partnerships with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS), New York State Unified Court System (UCS), the Center for Court Innovation, and the Maxwell X Lab. For more information and resources about the Opioid Court Systems, visit NYS OASAS, NYS Unified Court Systems, and The Center for Court Innovation.
National Well-being Survey
The Lerner Center conducted a nationally-representative survey of U.S. working-age (18-64) adults in February and March of 2021 to examine demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic differences in physical, mental, psychological, and social health and wellbeing. Data analyses are ongoing.
U.S. Mortality Trends
Several Lerner Center affiliates conduct research on U.S. mortality trends and the causes of those trends. Research in this area examines how and why overall and cause-specific mortality rates vary across demographic and social groups and geographic areas (e.g., U.S. states, counties, rural-urban continuum). We are particularly interested in the policy and contextual (place-level) drivers of these trends. Key questions include: Why are drug, alcohol, and suicide mortality rates higher in some places and population subgroups than others? Why has education become an increasingly important determinant of premature mortality? Which state policies explain diverging mortality trends in the U.S.? Representative briefs summarizing research by some of our affiliates in this area are:
- The U.S. Rural Mortality Penalty is Wide and Growing
- Conservative State Policies Damage U.S. Life Expectancy
- Allowing Cities to Raise the Minimum Wage Could Prevent Hundreds of Infant Deaths Annually
- Progress in Closing the Age at Death Disparity for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
- There are Multiple and Geographically Distinct Opioid Crises in the U.S.
- Major Causes of Death among Adults with Down Syndrome
- The Gender Gap in Alcohol Deaths is Much Larger in Some States than Others
- SNAP Participation is Associated with Reduced Risk of Premature Mortality among U.S. Adults
- Suicide Rates Have Soared among Middle-Aged White Women in the U.S.
- Life Expectancy is Increasingly Tied to our Education Level
Lerner Center Director, Shannon Monnat, was part of a National Academy of Sciences Consensus Committee that released a report in March 2021 on key drivers of rising midlife mortality rates and associated widening differentials. Access the report here.
Mental and Behavioral Health
Lerner Center staff, graduate students, and several of our affiliates have substantial expertise in mental and behavioral health outcomes and their causes and consequences. These studies focus on social, structural, and policy determinants of opioid, other drug, and alcohol use and the experiences of people who use substances. Representative briefs summarizing research by some of our affiliates in this area are:
- Unmet Needs are Associated with Increased Stress and Poor Physical and Mental Health in Early Adulthood
- Self-Esteem and Long-Term Recovery from Substance Use Disorders
- The Influence of Military Service Experiences on Current and Daily Drinking
- The Stories Behind the Struggle: A Closer Look at First Experiences with Opioid Misuse
- “He’s Not Marrying My Daughter”: Stigma Against People in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders
- Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health is Better in States that Mandate More School Mental Health Policies
- Understanding Opioid Users’ Views on Fentanyl Could Help Reduce Overdoses
Child and Family Health
Several Lerner Center affiliates conduct research on the health and economic well-being of children and families, with a particular emphasis on the policies and contextual conditions that drive disparities in poor health outcomes among children and the causes and consequences of material hardship throughout the life course. Representative briefs summarizing research by some of our affiliates in this area are:
- Housing Insecurity during the Coronavirus Response
- Food Insufficiency during the Coronavirus Response
- Physical Health Impacts of Grandparenting Children with Disabilities
- Does Proximity to Fast Food Increase Incidence of Childhood Obesity?
- Economic Hardship During Childhood Increases the Risk of Premature Death Later in Life
- Let Them Eat Lunch: The Impact of Universal Free Meals on Student Performance
- Food Assistance May Help Families Prevent Emergency Department Visits for Child Asthma
Demographic and Geographic Variation in COVID-19 Impacts
Since March of 2020, Lerner Center affiliates have been engaged in research to document and understand COVID-19 infection and mortality trends, the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, and how these trends vary across different demographic and social groups and geographic areas. A selection of research topics and briefs are provided below. View more on our COVID-19 page.
Impacts on rural areas
- Why Coronavirus Could Hit Rural Areas Harder
- New York State’s Rural Counties have Higher COVID-19 Mortality Risk
- Rural COVID-19 Mortality Rates are Highest in Counties with the Largest Percentages of Blacks and Hispanics
- High COVID-19 Mortality Risk in Pennsylvania’s Rural Counties
- Disparities in Vulnerability to Severe Complications from COVID-19 in the U.S.
- Increased COVID-19 Risk for Adults with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability Living in Residential Group Homes
- Gender Disparities in Caretaking during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- COVID-19 Mortality Rates are Higher among People with Intellectual and Developmental Disability
- Geographic Disparities in COVID-19 Testing: An Urgent Call to Action
- Area Agencies on Aging Provide Crucial Support for Older New Yorkers during COVID-19
- New York State’s Older Adults in Assisted Living Facilities Need All of Us to Help them Avoid the Coronavirus
- COVID-19 is a Major Risk to New York State’s Older Veterans
- The Spatial Distribution of New York State’s Older Population: Let’s Keep New York’s Older Adults Safe and Healthy during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Mental health and substance use impacts
- Wastewater Testing Shows that Pharmaceutical and Illicit Drug Use are Higher in Places where COVID-19 is More Prevalent
- Anxious Times and Anxiety Drugs
- The Mental Health Toll of COVID-19
- COVID-19, Anxiety, and Depression: Evidence form the U.S. Household Pulse Survey