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Dr. Rosanne Freak-Poli is a life-course epidemiologist. Her work is strongly driven by social justice, being the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

Worldwide #44 top-ranked expert in Loneliness. #6 in Australia and #8 in the Netherlands. 

Plus top-ranked in Australia and the Netherlands in Social Isolation (#6), Widowhood (#11), Optimism (#13), Social support (#14), Marital status (#16),  Social Environment (#21), Happiness (#34), and Social conditions (#58).


Rosanne is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and a newly appointed role (2023) at the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health. Rosanne continues her independent research program (ongoing from successful NHMRC and Heart Foundation fellowships) and initiates new initiatives with A/Prof Kilkenny in the Big Data, Epidemiology and Prevention Division.

Rosanne has a background in public health, statistics, and psychology and has experience in government, hospital, and university research settings. Rosanne’s Ph.D. (Epidemiology) evaluated the impact of a physical activity intervention in the workplace, which has been described in a Scientific Statement as one of only a few interventions that decrease or interrupt sedentary behaviour in the work environment to improve metabolic risk. Rosanne’s Ph.D. findings have informed a mandated, comprehensive clinical practice guideline for the 70+ million obese Americans; an Evidence Check for the development and implementation of workplace programs, brokered by the NSW Ministry; and clinical guidelines (e.g. appropriate anthropometric indices for South Asians by World Health Organization to assess adiposity health risk among nearly 2 billion worldwide).

In 2013 Rosanne was awarded an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship (2013-2018) to investigate the relationship between happiness and health. This award provided an international residency in The Netherlands to gain access to The Rotterdam Study, a longitudinal database following 15,000 older adults. Her research aimed to gain a better understanding of the interaction between psychological and physical health – an important aspect for government resource allocation. For example, depression after a cardiovascular disease event is commonly considered a risk-factor for increased mortality. However, Rosanne demonstrated that the cardiovascular disease event was inflating already high levels of depressive symptoms that were present prior. Rosanne also demonstrated that being “unhappy” does not necessarily contribute to cardiovascular disease, which led to a re-evaluation of prior dogma, as evidenced by discussion in 9 books including by a prominent social epidemiologist. Rosanne’s NHMRC ECR research also has impacted international tertiary psychology courses; impacted global policy (e.g. United Nations World Bank report to address the 11,200+ premature deaths, 60% among children <5y, from air pollution in Lagos, Nigeria); local national policy (e.g. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s policy to reduce the 1.2 million, or 1 in 20, people in Australia with diabetes); and evidence-based guidelines (e.g. diabetes among older people, by UK government).

In 2018 Rosanne was awarded a National Heart Foundation of Australia Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2022) to investigate social isolation as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in an Australian setting. Rosanne has made an internationally significant and impactful contribution to understanding the population impact of social health. She has progressed the field by examining the social health components of social isolation, social support, and loneliness separately. Rosanne has demonstrated that social health is associated with a greater severity of chronic disease risk-factors1 and lower quality of life2,3; increased risk of cardiovascular disease4,5 and dementia6,7; and high-intensity healthcare services (i.e., nursing home, rather than rehabilitation, or outpatient), lower outpatient rehabilitation attendance, greater rehospitalization, worse mental health and poorer survival during cardiovascular disease recovery8,9. Rosanne’s Heart Foundation Postdoctoral research has been highlighted in an Editorial as having direct clinical implications through improving current cardiovascular disease risk prediction practices.

Rosanne has been the recipient of a number of awards including a BUPA Emerging Health Researcher Commendation Award, Doctoral Program Excellence Award, and a competitive World Health Organization Internship in Geneva, Switzerland. Rosanne's work has had immeasurable media attention, including live national interview (Studio10), national news (6pm 7NEWS, SBS News radio, 7am ABC Radio reaching 1,136,600 people, WSFM 101.7 Sydney iHeartRadio), and local outlets (ABC Radio Melbourne reaching 94,000 people). Additionally written media span different target groups, including Medical Journal of Australia InSight+ “Take socialising seriously for your patients’ survival”; Loneliness can be a health hazard. Manu's garden project offers a solution; Social isolation linked to lower brain volume; Isolation and loneliness linked to mortality; Loneliness link to heart disease in older Australians downloaded nearly 60,000 times; I don't think lonely could apply to me, I was wrongThe case that exercise cuts depression is stronger than ever; Two million Australians feel isolated at Christmas, Salvation Army says; Mental Health During The Festive SeasonEncouraging older Australians to connect this festive season.

Rosanne's involvement in numerous research projects has given her a strong understanding of project design, implementation, post-production and completion and has had extensive experience with current advanced statistical analysis techniques and methodologies. From prior work she has research strengths in sexual behaviour, chronic disease risk, sleep, physical activity and intervention evaluation. While Rosanne’s focus is upon active ageing, she has a passion for longitudinal analysis, knowledge translation and program evaluation that is inclusive of a wider range of health areas and age groups. Her aim is to utilise epidemiological theory, biostatistical application and knowledge of human psychology to give a more comprehensive picture of health issues.

Latest papers

  1. The role of social determinants in cardiovascular disease
  2. Adverse life events increases the risk of dementia
  3. There is a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of social prescribing on chronic disease risk factors
  4. The bi-directional relationship between social health and cardiovascular disease
  5. Social support, social isolation, and loneliness were considered in cardiac care decisions and plays a role in how healthcare is being delivered
  6. Low intensity exercise (walking) can reduce stress
  7. Optimism (and low pessimism) are linked to healthy ageing
  8. Quality of life is a predictor of cardiovascular disease, dementia and mortality
  9. Late-life depression as a risk factor for mortality
  10. Social connection can benefit quality of life, cardiovascular disease risk and cardiac patients' outcomes. 
  11. Adverse Childhood Events & Dementia
  12. The psychosomatic impacts of social isolation on CVD
  13. Optimism, Pessimism & CVD
  14. Social Health & transitioning into Widowhood
  15. Take socialising seriously for your patients’ survival
  16. Social Health -> CVD in Older Australians
  17. Social Health -> CVD in AU & NZ?
  18. Weight loss predicts mortality


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Affiliation, Erasmus MC (Erasmus University Medical Center)

17 Jun 201331 Dec 2021

Research area keywords

  • Life-course Epidemiology
  • Public Health
  • Social Prescribing
  • Social epidemiology
  • Intervention evaluation
  • Resilience
  • Quality Of Life
  • Intervention Studies
  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
  • Health Behaviour
  • psychiatric epidemiology
  • Longitudinal designs and analyses
  • Loneliness
  • Social isolation
  • Quantitative
  • Active ageing
  • Data Analysis
  • Social support
  • Social interaction
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Sexual activity
  • Aging
  • Sexual behaviour
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • coronary heart disease
  • longitudinal data
  • Life Course Analysis
  • Survival analysis
  • Evaluation
  • Systematic Review
  • meta-analysis
  • Social health
  • Heart disease
  • later life
  • epidemiology
  • physical tenderness
  • Older Adults
  • longitudinal
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Psychological well-being
  • Ageing

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or