Cleopatra Abdou, PhD

Assistant Professor of Gerontology and Psychology


  • BA, Psychology (Minor: Art), University of Miami, 2000
  • MA, Social and Health Psychology, UCLA, 2003
  • PhD, Social and Health Psychology (Minor: Statistics), UCLA, 2008
  • Postdoctoral fellowship, Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan, 2010


  • Lifespan and intergenerational health and health disparities
  • Critical developmental phases, including older adulthood, early life, and reproduction, which represents the first link between generations
  • Human Flourishing


What factors allow individuals, families, communities, and societies to be healthy, happy, and successful, even against great odds? This is the question at the heart of Cleopatra Abdou’s health and human flourishing research program.

Abdou investigates the interplay of sociocultural and psychobiological determinants of health and well-being. Her interdisciplinary research highlights cultural and psychosocial resources that promote flourishing and buffer stress. She examines how these effects are reflected in the body and behavior to improve mental and physical health during critical lifespan developmental phases, including pregnancy, early childhood, and later life, thereby reducing ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities.

Abdou coined the term healthcare stereotype threat (HCST) and was the first to causally link healthcare stereotype threat to adverse healthcare outcomes among women, including healthcare-related anxiety. Abdou has also shown that, across genders and ethnic groups, healthcare stereotype threat is related to poorer mental and physical health, distrust of physicians, lower preventive care use, and lower ratings of healthcare received.

Abdou has proposed that age-based healthcare stereotype threat (or healthcare stereotype threat experienced on the basis of age) is an overlooked psychosocial stressor experienced by older women who are pregnant or seek to become pregnant. Age-based reproductive healthcare stereotype threat is thought to be experienced by trying-to-conceive and pregnant women during the course of fertility, gynecological, and obstetric care. It may also be a barrier to optimal mental and physical health during the preconceptional, prenatal, and postpartum periods, as well as affect birth, early life, and longer-term outcomes in offspring.

Abdou’s empirical work led to Aging Before Birth and Beyond, a lifespan and intergenerational model of human development. It also led to the development of the Culture and Social Identity Health Theory, which provides a guide for examining the independent and synergistic effects of culture and social identity on health as a means of advancing health equity nationally and globally.

Abdou’s research has been funded by multiple arms of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Mellon/Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Michigan Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities. Abdou’s work is published in scientific journals in psychology, public health, medicine, gerontology, and sociology.

Office Location: GER 238

Office Phone: (213) 740-6678

Fax: (213) 740-4420

Lab: GER 219



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