Donghao Lu

Donghao Lu

Assistant Professor | Docent
Visiting address: Nobels väg 13, 17177 Stockholm
Postal address: C6 Institutet för miljömedicin, C6 Integrativ epidemiologi Lu, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • I am an Associate Professor (Docent) in Epidemiology and Research Group Leader of the Women's Mental Health Epidemiology Group at IMM.


  • Group members:

    Alicia Nevriana (postdoc fellow)
    Elgeta Hysaj (doctoral student)
    Emma Bränn (postdoc fellow)
    Hang Yu (doctoral student)
    Jing Zhou (doctoral student)
    Rebecka Keijser (postdoc fellow)
    Yihui Yang (doctoral student)
    Yufeng Chen (postdoc fellow)

    Former members:
    Marion Opatowski (postdoc fellow, 2022-2023)
    Qian Yang (doctoral student, 2018-2022)


  • My research program is to study women’s mental health over the life course and to bridge the gap between Obstetrics/Gynecology and Psychiatry. Leveraging international large-scale population-based cohorts, I aim to understand the underlying biological mechanisms affecting women’s mental health and potential health consequences. My current main research topics are:


  • 1) Risk factors and health consequences of reproductive mood disorders or sex-specific mental disorders, including:

    ° premenstrual disorders (premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder)

    ° perinatal depression (prenatal and postnatal depression)

    ° perimenopausal depression and menopausal symptoms

    ° other maternal mental disorders occurred during and after pregnancy
    2) Sex disparity in mental health


    My research work is supported by the Swedish Research Council (VR), Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte), China Scholarship Council, and Karolinska Institutet Strategic Research Area in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (SFOepi), Faculty Board, Board of Doctoral Education, and Research Fund.


  • Contributions to Science:

    1) Early life origins and risk factors of premenstrual disorders

    Premenstrual disorders are typically diagnosed in women in their 20s/30s, but my research has shown that the symptoms often begin during adolescence. In fact, in a sample of young women in the US, I found that approximately 70% of premenstrual disorders had onset before the age of 20. However, little was known about the factors in early life that may predispose these women to the onset of premenstrual disorders during adolescence. Through my studies, I have identified several important risk factors for premenstrual disorders developed later in life, including early menarche or pubertal development, adverse childhood experiences, childhood overweight or obesity, and childhood asthma or food allergy. These findings have significantly contributed to the understanding of the early life origins of the pathophysiology of premenstrual disorders.

    1. Lu D, Aleknaviciute J, Bjarnason R, Tamimi RM, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Bertone-Johnson ER. Pubertal development and risk of premenstrual disorders in young adulthood. Hum Reprod. 2021 May 30, 36(2):455-464. PMID: 33289027
    2. Yang Q, Þórðardóttir EB, Hauksdóttir A, Aspelund T, Jakobsdóttir J, Halldorsdottir T, Tomasson G, Rúnarsdóttir H, Danielsdottir HB, Bertone-Johnson ER, Sjölander A, Fang F, Lu D#, Valdimarsdóttir UA#. Association between adverse childhood experiences and premenstrual disorders: a cross-sectional analysis of 11, 973 women. BMC Med. 2022 Feb 21, 20(1):60. PMID: 35184745
    3. Lu D, Aleknaviciute J, Kamperman AM, Tamimi RM, Ludvigsson JF, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Bertone-Johnson ER. Association Between Childhood Body Size and Premenstrual Disorders in Young Adulthood. JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Mar 1, 5(3):e221256. PMID: 35258576
    4. Yang Y, Gong T, Camargo CA, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Bertone-Johnson E, Lu D. Childhood asthma, allergies, and risk of premenstrual disorders in young adulthood. Nature Mental Health. 2023. DOI 10.1038/s44220-023-00066-4



  • 2) Health impact of premenstrual disorders

    Although premenstrual symptoms are restricted to the days before menstruation, the chronic and cyclic condition may translate to a profound impact on the long-term quality of life. However, there is a lack of prospective data to understand the health consequences of premenstrual disorders. My research is the first to demonstrate that patients with premenstrual disorders are at increased risks of subsequent suicidal behavior, accidents, perinatal depression, early menopause and severe menopause symptoms, premature death, and eventually contribute to the sex gap in mental health. We also found that use of hormonal contraceptives, particularly combined products, may reduce the rates of suicidal behaviors among women with premenstrual disorders.


    1. Yang Q, Sjölander A, Li Y, Viktorin A, Bertone-Johnson ER, Ye W, Fang F, Valdimarsdóttir UA#, Lu D#. Clinical indications of premenstrual disorders and subsequent risk of injury: a population-based cohort study in Sweden. BMC Med. 2021, 19(1):119. PMID: 34034729
    2. Yang Q, Bränn E, Bertone-Johnson E, Sjölander A, Fang F, Öberg S, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Lu D. The bidirectional association between premenstrual disorders and perinatal depression: a nationwide register-based study. PLoS Med. 2024, 21(3):e1004363. PMID: 38547436, The Conversation, BBC News
    3. Yang Y, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Manson JE, Sievert LL, Harlow BL, Eliassen AH, Bertone-Johnson ER#, Lu D#. Premenstrual Disorders, Timing of Menopause, and Severity of Vasomotor Symptoms. JAMA Netw Open. 2023, 6(9):e2334545. PMID: 37725375, CNN News
    4. Yang Q, Lagerberg T, Sjölander A, Bertone-Johnson ER, Fang F, Ye W, Chang Z, Valdimarsdóttir UA#, Lu D#. Use of hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants and risks of suicidal behavior and accidents among women with premenstrual disorders: a nationwide cohort study. BMC Med. 2022, 20(1):482. PMID: 36522649
    5. Li Y, Jiang J, Halldorsdottir T, Zhu H, Bertone-Johnson E, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Zhou X, Zhang W#, Lu D#. Premenstrual disorders and gender differences in adolescent mental health. J Affect Disord. 2023, 340:930-937. PMID: 37543115
    6. Opatowski M, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Oberg AS, Bertone-Johnson ER, Lu D. Mortality Risk Among Women With Premenstrual Disorders in Sweden. JAMA Netw Open. 2024
    7. 7(5):e2413394. PMID: 38805225


  • 3) Health impact of perinatal depression

    Maternity care typically prioritizes pregnancy outcomes, often sidelining women’s mental well-being. Perinatal depression affects as many as 10-20% of women giving birth worldwide. In contrast to the common belief that perinatal depression is self-resolving, many cases can last for months or even longer, particularly if left untreated. However, prospective data are lacking to illustrate whether women with perinatal depression may confront enduring health consequences. My research is among the first to demonstrate that patients with perinatal depression are at increased risks of subsequent suicidal behavior, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, and mortality.


    1. Bränn E, Shen Q, Lu D. Perinatal depression and its health impact. BMJ, 2024, 384:p2777.PMID: 38195147
    2. Hagatulah N, Bränn E, Oberg AS, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Shen Q#, Lu D#. Perinatal depression and risk of mortality: nationwide, register based study in Sweden. BMJ, 2024, 384:e075462. PMID: 38199643, FORTE News, New York Times
    3. Bränn E, Chen Y, Song H, László KD, D'Onofrio BM, Hysaj E, Almqvist C, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P, Valdimarsdottir UA, Lu D. Bidirectional association between autoimmune disease and perinatal depression: a nationwide study with sibling comparison. Mol Psychiatry. 2024. PMID: 38191927, U.S. News
    4. Yu H, Shen Q, Bränn E, Yang Y, Oberg AS, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Lu D. Perinatal Depression and Risk of Suicidal Behavior. JAMA Netw Open, 2024, 7(1):e2350897. PMID: 38194232, New York Times
    5. Lu D, Valdimarsdóttir UA, Wei D, Chen Y, Andreassen O, Fang F, László KD, Bränn E. Perinatal depression and risk of maternal cardiovascular disease: a nationwide Swedish study. European Heart Journal [In Press]



  • Doctoral program: Epidemiology I "Introduction to Epidemiology"
    Master program: Methods for studying the distribution of health


All other publications



  • Associate Professor (Docent), IMM, Karolinska Institute, 2023-
  • Assistant Professor, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, 2021-2027
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, 2022-2025

Degrees and Education

  • Docent, Karolinska Institutet, 2023
  • Degree Of Doctor Of Philosophy, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, 2017

Leadership and responsibility assignments

  • Research team leader, Research Group Leader, IMM, Karolinska Institute, 2023-

Visiting research fellowships

  • Research Fellow, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, 2018-2022
  • Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School, 2018-2020
  • Postdoc Fellow, University of Iceland, 2017-2018

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