2022 Hinckley Lecture
|Terrie E. Moffitt
Professor of Social Development, King's College Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of Psychology, Duke University
Feb. 3, 2022, 7:30 pm, Hinckley Center Assembly Hall
Surprises About Mental Health Revealed by Following 1,000 People for Decades
Mental-health professionals typically encounter a patient at one point in his or her life. This cross-sectional snapshot view fosters intense focus on the current presenting diagnosis. But what happens outside the clinic, and what happens across decades of a life?
Repeated mental-health assessments in a birth cohort of 1,000 babies followed to midlife revealed that mental disorder eventually affects virtually everyone. The most extensive life-histories included adolescent onset of mental disorder followed by a succession of different diagnoses emerging over the next decades. Mental-disorder life-histories could not be adequately characterized by diagnosis at one point in time, because each patient will have different diagnoses in their past, and still different diagnoses coming in their future.
The research also uncovered that people who have mental disorder in the first half of their lives are at elevated risk in the second half of their lives for rapid biological aging, multiple physical diseases, and Alzheimer’s dementia. This connection raises new possibilities for early mental health treatment to prevent later unhealthy aging.
This lecture will challenge our field’s over-reliance on researching and treating individual mental disorders one at a time, at one point in time. A longer view encourages us to teach people skills for managing stress and maintaining mental health and wellbeing — skills that should last a lifetime. Helping young people maintain mental health might yield a large return on investment decades later in optimal healthy aging.
About Dr. Moffitt
Terrie E. Moffitt’s expertise is in the areas of lifelong aging, mental health, and longitudinal research methods. She is the associate director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which follows a 1972 birth cohort in New Zealand. She also founded the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study (E-Risk), which follows a 1994 birth cohort in Britain.
Moffitt is a licensed clinical psychologist, with specialization in neuropsychological assessment. Her current service includes chair of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, chair of the National Institute on Aging’s Data-Monitoring Board for the Health and Retirement Study, and chair of the jury for the Klaus J. Jacobs Prize (Switzerland).
She is an elected fellow of the US National Academy of Medicine, British Academy, UK Academy of Medical Sciences, and Association of Psychological Science. Moffitt is recipient of the Stockholm Prize, the Klaus Jacobs Prize and the NARSAD Ruane Prize for her work on mental health, and the Matilda White Riley Award from the NIH for her recent work on aging processes in midlife adults.
Dr. Moffitt received her PhD in psychology at the University of Southern California, and completed her postdoctoral training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She enjoys working on her poison-ivy farm in North Carolina. Learn more at www.moffittcaspi.com.