Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, MPH, PhD, is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health, health care and longevity. He is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; and Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Christakis’ current work is principally concerned with health and social networks, and specifically with how ill health, disability, health behavior, health care, and death in one person can influence the same phenomena in a person’s social network. Some current work focuses on the health benefits of marriage and on how ill health in one spouse can have cascading effects on the other spouse. Other work examines a very large social network (of 12,000 people, including family, friends, co-workers and neighbors) followed for over 30 years to look broadly at the role of networks in health and health care. This work involves the application of network science and mathematical models to understand the dynamics of health in longitudinally evolving networks. To the extent that health behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or unhealthy eating spread within networks in intelligible ways, there are substantial implications for our understanding of health behavior and health policy. Most recently, Dr. Christakis has been exploring the joint genetic and socio-environmental determinants of the formation and operation of human social networks. With James H. Fowler he co-authored the 2009 book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How they Shape Our Lives (Little, Brown).