Online Invited Seminar Talk

COVID-19 Related Bereavement and Mental Health: Demographic Insights and Applications

Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography
Online Invited Seminar Talk, May 12, 2021

Ashton Verdery from Pennsylvania State University, State College (PA), USA reviewed some of the recent research about the scale at which the COVID-19 mortality shock has been felt by those left grieving the deaths of loved ones.


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an acute mortality shock throughout the world. Ashton Verdery reviews some of the recent research about the scale at which this mortality shock has been felt by those left grieving the deaths of loved ones, focusing on demographic modeling results and informed speculation by health demographers.

He then turns to a focus on pandemic-associated mental health challenges among older adults in Europe and the United States using survey data from the Society of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe and the U.S. Health and Retirement Survey, highlighting the critical role that COVID-induced bereavement plays in elevating poor mental health in this population.

He concludes by reflecting on the value of supporting basic (as opposed to applied) demographic science to respond to unprecedented social challenges in a timely and policy-relevant fashion.


Ashton Verdery is Harry & Elissa Sichi Early Career Professor of Sociology, Demography, & Social Data Analytics at the Department of Sociology and Criminology of the Pennsylvania State University.

His research focuses on social networks: how and why people are socially connected to each other and the consequences of those connections. Within this broad area, he is especially interested in demographic processes, specifically how population dynamics shape family, kinship, and social networks, and how those networks in turn affect health and other population processes.

He has given special attention to migration and the network ties that migrants retain to origin areas after moving as well as the new ties they form in different destinations.

He is also very interested in using social networks as a basis for sampling populations that are otherwise difficult to survey, including migrants, those at high risk of sexually transmitted or blood-borne infections, and opioid users. In this line of research, he is working on new ways to use and improve network-based sampling methods, especially respondent-driven sampling.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.