Daniel Belsky, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology (in the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center)
Profile Headshot

Overview

Dr.  Belsky's research sits at the intersection of public health, population & behavioral sciences, and genomics. His studies seek to understand how genes and environments combine to shape health across the life course. The goal of Dan's work is to reduce social inequalities in aging outcomes in the US and elsewhere.

Dan's research in genetic epidemiology includes polygenic score studies of the development of obesity, asthma, smoking behavior, depression, and socioeconomic risk. His work in aging has focused on the development and analysis of algorithms to quantify the process of biological aging, especially in young and midlife adults. Dan's work has received international attention, including by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Guardian newspapers, and appeared in outlets including PNAS, Nature Human Behaviour, the JAMA journals, Lancet Respiratory Medicine, and top journals in epidemiology and gerontology. 

Dan is currently pursuing three related streams of research: (i) Development of methods to quantify processes of biological aging in young and midlife humans; (ii) Analysis of longitudinal cohort study and randomized trial data to identify molecular and behavioral pathways to resilience through which at-risk individuals can slow their pace of aging; and (iii) Analysis of gene-environment interplay to identify environmental factors that can be modified to reduce genetic risk for age-related disease and functional decline.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Epidemiology (in the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center)

Administrative Titles

  • Faculty, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center

Gender

  • Male

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BA, 2002 Swarthmore College
  • PhD, 2012 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Public Health

Editorial Boards

Journals of Gerontology

Honors & Awards

Early Career Research Fellow, Jacobs Foundation

Young Scholar, Jacobs Foundation

Fellow, CIFAR CBD Network

Butler Williams Scholar, NIA

Research

Research Interests

  • Aging
  • Biostatistical Methods
  • Chronic disease
  • Community Health
  • Genetics

Selected Publications

Belsky DW*, Caspi A, Houts R, Corcoran D, Cohen HJ, Danese A, Harrington HL, Israel S, Levine M, Schaefer J, Sugden K, Williams B, Yashin AI, Poulton R, Moffitt TE. Quantification of biological aging in young adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Plus) USA. 112(30):E4104-4110, 2015. PMC4522793

Belsky DW*, Caspi A, Kraus W, Cohen HJ, Ramrakha S, Poulton R, Moffitt TE. Impact of early personal-history characteristics on the Pace of Aging: Implications for clinical trials of therapies to slow aging and extend healthspan. Aging Cell, 16(4):644-651, 2017 PMC5506399

Belsky DW*, Huffman K, Pieper C, Shalev I, Kraus W. Change in the Rate of Biological Aging in Response to Caloric Restriction: CALERIE Biobank Analysis. Journals of Gerontology A: Biological Sciences, 12;73(1):4-10, 2017. PMC5861848

Belsky DW*, Moffitt TE, Cohen AA, Corcoran DL, Levine ME, Prinz J, Schaefer J, Sugden K, Williams B, Poulton R, Caspi A. Telomere, epigenetic clock, and biomarker-composite quantifications of biological aging: Do they measure the same thing? American Journal of Epidemiology, 187(6):1220-1230, 2018. PMC6248475

Parker DC, Bartlett BN, Cohen HJ, Fillenbaum G, Huebner J, Kraus VB, Pieper C, Belsky DW*. Association of blood chemistry quantifications of biological aging with disability and mortality in older adults. Journals of Gerontology A: Biological Sciences. Published online, November 6, 2019. Published online December 10, 2019. PMCID Pending

Belsky DW*, Caspi A, Israel S, Blumenthal JA, Poulton R, Moffitt TE. Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function at midlife: Neuroprotection or neuroselection? Annals of Neurology, 77(4):607-617, 2015. PMC4376580

Belsky DW*, Sears MR, Hancox R, Moffitt TE, Harrington H, Houts R, Sugden K, Williams B, Poulton R, Caspi A. Polygenic risk and the development and course of asthma: an analysis of data from a 4-decade longitudinal study. Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 1:453-461, 2013. PMC3899706

Belsky DWB*, Domingue BD, Weedow R, Arseneault L, Boardman J, Caspi A, Conley DC, Fletcher J, Freese J, Herd P, Moffitt TE, Poulton R, Sicinski K, Wertz J, Harris KM. Genetic analysis of social-class mobility in five longitudinal studies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Plus) USA, 115(31):E7275-84, 2018. PMC29987013

Belsky DW*, Caspi A, Arseneault L, Corcoran D, Houts R, Moffitt TE, Prinz J, Sugden K, Wertz J, Williams BS, Odgers CL. Genetics and the geography of health, behavior, and attainment. Nature Human Behaviour, Published online April 8, 2019. PMC6565482

Belsky DW, Harden KP. Phenotypic annotation: Translating discoveries from genome-wide association studies from the top down. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(1):82-90. PMCID Pending

Global Health Activities

PROMENTA: The PROMENTA Research Center aims to provide answers to three central questions in mental health, well-being, and drug use research: -What processes lead to poor and good mental health, and how? -How do social and geographic inequalities in mental health arise? -How can we develop, tailor, and evaluate effective interventions in communities to promote good mental health? To address these questions, we examine sources of mental health on a variety of levels, such as genetic risk, neuro-cognitive development, the psychosocial environment, and the socio-cultural and political context.