RWJF Health & Society Scholar:
Area(s) of Expertise:
Social Determinants of Health in Aging, Cognitive Change in the Elderly, Socioeconomic and Geographic Determinants of Stroke Incidence and Outcomes, Causal Inference in Social Epidemiology
Maria Glymour’s primary research interest is how social factors experienced across the lifecourse, such as educational attainment and work environment, influence cognitive function, memory loss, stroke and other health outcomes in old age. Her research draws on instrumental variables methods and other analytic approaches to distinguish causal effects from non-causal correlations in studies of social determinants of health. Such distinctions are critical to translate observational research into effective population health interventions. In addition to longitudinal studies of determinants of cognitive aging, she also works on determinants of stroke and stroke recovery. For example, she is examining whether stroke onset exacerbates social disparities and whether public policies that affected early or mid-life social conditions of elderly cohorts can explain the geographic patterning of stroke in the US. Related projects focus on understanding how selective survival and dropout bias observational research in the elderly. For example, she is studying whether brain changes on MRI, such as hippocampal volume loss, predict dropout in a longitudinal study of aging. She hypothesizes that such selective dropout might lead us to underestimate the role of social factors in healthy aging. Recently, she has begun studying how to use genetic information –primarily from genome wide association studies – to identify modifiable (non-genetic) determinants of cognitive aging and dementia risk. She received her SD from the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2004. She is now an Associate Professor at the UCSF School of Medicine in the department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics.