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Analysis of social epidemiology research on infectious diseases: historical patterns and future opportunities
  1. Justin M Cohen1,
  2. Mark L Wilson1,
  3. Allison E Aiello2
  1. 1
    Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  2. 2
    Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  1. Allison E Aiello, Department of Epidemiology, Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 109 South Observatory Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA; aielloa{at}


Background: Despite the many triumphs of biomedical research over infectious diseases, human pathogens continue to impact profoundly populations deprived of social resources. Correspondingly, health researchers have advocated a social determinants approach to the study and prevention of infectious diseases. However, it is unknown whether this call has resulted in an increase in the number of studies examining social determinants of infectious outcomes.

Methods: Research on social determinants of infectious diseases was systematically quantified by assessing temporal trends in the published literature using MEDLINE, PsycINFO and ISI Web of Science.

Results: Results of the literature review spanning 1966–2005 show that socially related citations increased an annual average of 180.3 for neuropsychiatric conditions, 81.9 for chronic conditions, 44.7 for sexually transmitted diseases and 18.9 for non-sexually transmitted infectious diseases (p<0.0001). Of the 279 publications found to employ the term “social epidemiology”, 15 (5.4%) investigated infectious outcomes.

Conclusions: The results of the literature review suggest a paucity of social research on infectious diseases. There is a need for increased dialogue and collaboration between infectious disease epidemiologists and social epidemiologists.

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  • Funding: This work was supported in part (J.C.) by a University of Michigan Regents’ Fellowship and by the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar grant #045823 at the University of Michigan (A.E.A.).

  • Competing interest: None declared.

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