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Institute Impact: Dispatching Diseases of Despair

Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute currently leads a project to understand the role of social and economic factors on health in the commonwealth. According to institute research with Highmark Health Enterprise Analytics, diagnoses of alcohol and substance use disorders and mental health conditions involving suicidal thoughts and behaviors – commonly referred to as diseases of despair – increased in Pennsylvania health insurance claims between 2007 and 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified these problems due to isolation and economic hardships.

Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences researchers will use novel artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to address diseases of despair.

“We’d like to use big data to predict who may be most at risk for diseases of despair before they seek care for these illnesses,” project researcher Daniel George said. “Are there algorithms that we can develop to identify communities and people that may be at greater risk for despair-related illness?”

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