Research on mental health beliefs and behaviors
The primary component of my research trajectory applies a cultural sociology lens to contextualize long-term trends in mental health and treatment in the United States. I focus on changing understandings and beliefs at the macro level and how they influence individuals’ behaviors and decision-making
In my dissertation, From Deviance to Diagnosis: Cultural Meanings of Mental Health, I use computational and qualitative text analysis and custom text datasets to analyze how news media and individuals think about and make sense of mental health and illness over time. In the first part of the dissertation, I employ a corpus of over 100,000 newspaper articles from 1980 to 2020, structural topic modeling, and close reading to analyze framings of mental health and illness in the news media. With the same corpus, I also utilize word embeddings to measure the meanings of mental health terminology across dimensions of normality and deviance. In the second part of the dissertation, I use a contemporary corpus of Reddit posts to assess how people make sense of their mental health experiences. I use a network-based topic modeling approach combined with close reading to analyze how cultural frames and interactions shape the language people use to discuss mental health.
In published work in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, I conducted an age-period-cohort analysis of psychological distress and mental health treatment-seeking using the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to demonstrate the role of social and cultural change in driving increased treatment-seeking over time.
- Johnson, Amy L. 2021. “Changes in Mental Health and Treatment, 1997-2017.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 62(1):53-68.
- Mentioned in the podcast Mad in America.
- (in preparation) Johnson, Amy L. “Normality, Deviance, and Ambiguity: Changes in the Framing of Mental Health and Illness, 1980-2020.”
- (in preparation) Johnson, Amy L., Christopher Levesque, Neil A. Lewis, Jr., and Asad L. Asad. In preparation. “Macro-Level Stressors: Do National Contexts Matter for U.S. Latinos’ Psychological Distress?”
Research on gender beliefs
In collaborative research conducted through the VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, I explore how young adults’ gender beliefs are informed by cultural ideas of individualism and agency and contribute to persistent gender inequality by directing young adults away from structural solutions. The project, which uses longitudinal interview and survey data, is still ongoing and findings have been published in Social Problems and Sociological Perspectives.
- Carian, Emily K. and Amy L. Johnson. 2022. “The Agency Myth: Persistence in Individual Explanations for Gender Inequality.” Social Problems. 69(1):123-42.
- Baralt, Lori, Emily K. Carian, Amy L. Johnson, Sojung Lim, and Soo-Yeon Yoon. 2020. “Millennials and Gender in an Era of Growing Inequality.” Sociological Perspectives 63(3):452–60.