Xiangfei Meng, PhD

Xiangfei Meng




6875 Boulevard LaSalle
Montréal, QC
H4H 1R3

 Office:E-3110, Perry Pavilion

 Office phone: (514) 761-6131 x2352

Researcher, Douglas Research Centre

Director, Division of Mental Health & Society, Douglas Research Centre
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Research Scholar, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), Junior 1

Lab name: Population mental health and early life stress in neuropsychiatric disorders across the lifespan

Division: Mental Health and Society


Dr. Meng’s research mainly focuses on population mental health and neuropsychiatric epidemiology in general and aging populations, using a wide range of analytic techniques to research the roles of biological (genetic predispositions), psycho-socio environmental risk factors, and their interplay of common mental disorders across the life span, especially focusing on the importance of prevention strategies in the diverse ethnocultural environment. She aims to identify biological and/or psychosocial attributes that signify the risk of psychopathology and potentially serving as targets for prevention and intervention purposes. 

Our research group is working in two broad areas:

Population mental health and mental disorders

  • exploring bio-psycho-social attributes related to common mental disorders and mental health, including psychosocial attributes tied to mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • identification modifiable risk factors for population disease prevention and health promotion

Early life stress in neuropsychiatric disorders across the life span

  • examining the role of child maltreatment in later-on mental health and mental illness
  • exploring the underlying mechanism of intergenerational transmission of early life stressors and neuropsychiatric disorders

Our ongoing projects:


Dr. Meng received multidisciplinary training covering population health, psychiatry, genomics, epidemiology, and biostatistics. She received an MSc in Epidemiology & Biostatistics (2005) and a Ph.D. (2010) in Medical Genomics and then completed her postdoctoral fellowship (2010-2013) in psychiatry & neuro-degenerative diseases. As a psychiatric epidemiologist and population mental health researcher, Dr. Meng has been working on specific biopsychosocial characteristics (i.e., early-life exposures, social support, coping, socioeconomic status, common genetic variants), which are closely related, both directly or indirectly, to stress and act as both risk or protective factors for mental health/illness and cognitive impairment. Her leadership in understanding stress-related biopsychosocial characteristics in mental illnesses and population mental health through rigorous quantitative approaches is attested by the number and the quality of her publications. She has also contributed to the training of the next generation of scholars by in-class teaching and supervision on the relevant topic.

The poster by Xiangfei Meng et al., “Does More Education Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia? A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis” received First Prize awarded to posters at 2008 World Psychiatric Association Epidemiology and Public Health Section Meeting, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, May 11-14, 2008.

Research coordinator

Sophie Alarie

Sophie Alarie

Sophie Alarie has acquired solid experience as a professional and research coordinator on drug use or mental health, from 1993 to 2020 in various research centers including the International Center for Comparative Criminology (CICC), Recherche et intervention sur les substances psychoactives- Québec (RISQ), le Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Douglas Hospital Research Center, the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CRCHUM).
At the same time, she held the position of Assistant of the Director at the International Forum of Public Universities (IFPU) from 2009 to 2013 before working on the evaluation of the implementation of the Drug Treatment Program of the Quebec Courts from 2012 to 2014, then to the evaluation of the implementation of the Réseau infirmier, un partenaire de soin (RIUPS), in 2015 and 2016.
She is currently coordinating the development of population-based mental health research and the development of a biological material bank at the Douglas Hospital Research Center.

Research assistant

Gabriel Caron

Gabriel Caron

Gabriel Caron, M.Sc. Psychology from University of Montreal (2020). His master’s thesis was on the manifestation of chronic cognitive fatigue following sports concussions. His research interests vary greatly but always share a focus on prevention and clinical utility.


Current members


Muzi Li

Muzi Li

Muzi Li is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the McGill University and the Douglas Hospital Research Centre. She is working on a series of research programs related to “Big data for big insights in the field of common mental disorders” using a wide range of research methodologies to explore the scientific values of large scale datasets in the field of mental health and mental disorders. Muzi received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Her thesis was focused on the mental health in children and adolescents – prevention, psychosocial and epigenetic risk factors, and treatment

YingYing Su

YingYing Su

Yingying Su – Yingying Su is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the McGill University and the Douglas Hospital Research Centre. She completed her Postdoctoral degree in the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. Her thesis explored the biopsychosocial model of stress: risk factors, mediating effects, moderating effects and impacts. Her research interests primarily concern with the examination of the relationship between childhood maltreatment and stress-related mental disorders based on the framework of the biopsychosocial model.




Gabriella Spiegler

Gabriella is a M.Sc. Epidemiology student at McGill University. She is working on her thesis, which focuses on biopsychosocial factors in subtypes of depression among middle-aged and older adults. She received her B.Sc. at McGill University in Microbiology and Immunology.



Sajag Swami

Sajag is an undergraduate student at Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee and a MITACS Research intern at Douglas Research Centre – McGill University.
Google Summer of Code 2021 participant with Python Software Foundation.


Yinneth Andrea Arismendy Lopez

Undergraduate student of the Faculty of Medicine and coordinator of the Positive Psychiatry group of the Universidad de Santander (Colombia), Founder and secretary of the International Network for Stigma Reduction, MITACS research intern at Douglas Center-McGill University.

  • Ruiyang Wang
  • Yelin Chen
  • Lily Sul
  • Xin Yi

Former students & trainees


  • Jungkyu Park
  • Wenwang Rao


  • TingTing Gao
  • Baekyun (Peter) Park
  • Elias Chalet


  • Yingzhe Zhang
  • Pallavi Misra
  • Sibei Liu
  • Yuan Shuai
  • Xintong Li
  • X Meng, M Wang, KJ O’Donnell, J Caron, M Meaney, Y Li. 2022. Integrative PheWAS analysis in risk categorization of major depressive disorder and identifying their associations with genetic variants using a latent topic model approach. Translational Psychiatry.12:240.
  • Y Su, M Li, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2022. Trends and patterns of life satisfaction, Canada, 2009 to 2018: Is the level of social support tied to the trend of life satisfaction? Scientific Reports. 12:9720.
  • Y Su, C D’Arcy, M Li, K O’Donnell, J Caron, M Meaney, X Meng. 2022. Specific and cumulative lifetime stressors in the etiology of major depression: A longitudinal community-based population study. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. 31:1-12.
  • Y Su, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2022. Intergenerational Effect of Maternal Childhood Maltreatment on Next Generation’s Vulnerability to Psychopathology: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Trauma, Violences, & Abuse. 23:152-162.
  • Y Su, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2021. Social support and positive coping skills act as mediators buffering the impact of childhood maltreatment on psychological distress and positive mental health in adulthood: Analysis of a national population-based sample. American Journal of Epidemiology. 189:394-402.
  • Y Su, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2020. Intergenerational Effect of Maternal Childhood Maltreatment on Next Generation’s Vulnerability to Psychopathology: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Trauma, Violences, & Abuse. doi: 10.1177/1524838020933870.
  • Y Su, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2020. Developmental origins of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13358.
  • M Li, C D’Arcy, X Li, T Zhang, R Joober, X Meng. 2019. What do DNA methylation studies tell us about depression: A systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. 9:68.
  • X Meng, M-J Fleury, Y-T Xiang, M Li, C D’Arcy. 2018. Resilience and protective factors among people with a history of child maltreatment: A systematic review. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology. 53:453-475.
  • X Meng, A Brunet, G Turecki, A Liu, C D’Arcy, J Caron. 2017. Risk factor modifications on depression incidence: A 4-year longitudinal Canadian cohort of the Montreal Catchment Area Study. BMJ Open. 7:e015156.
  • M Li, C D’Arcy, X Meng. 2016. Maltreatment in childhood substantially increases the risk of adult depression and anxiety in prospective cohort studies: systematic review, meta-analysis, and proportional attributable fractions. Psychological Medicine. 46: 717-730.
  • X Meng, C D’Arcy. 2015. Coping strategies and distress reduction in psychological well-being? A structural equation modeling analysis using a national population sample. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. 16: 1-14.
  • X Meng, C D’Arcy. 2014. The projected effect of risk factor reduction on major depression incidence: A 16-year longitudinal Canadian Cohort of the National Population Health Survey. Journal of Affective Disorders. 158:56-61.
  • X Meng, C D’Arcy. 2013. The projected effect of increasing physical activity on reducing the prevalence of common mental disorders among Canadian men and women: A national population-based community study. Preventive Medicine. 56:59-63.


Lay summary of selected publications – Mental health, common mental health problems, and mental health services


The national and provincial levels of life satisfaction gradually increased from 2009 to 2018. Individuals who were women, aged between 12 and 19 years, living in rural areas, were most satisfied with their lives. There was a positive correlation between social support and life satisfaction for the provinces and the study years for which information on social support was available. Strengthening social support could be a public health target for promoting greater life satisfaction.  

  • 2022-“Novel risk categorization of major depressive disorder”– Translational Psychiatry. Published version (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-022-02015-8)

Major depressive disorder is the most prevalent mental disorder that constitutes a major public health problem. We derived a risk prediction tool that can categorize the risk of major depressive disorder as well as discover biologically meaningful genetic variants.

  • 2021-“Is parental socioeconomic status linked to offspring’s mental health?” – BMJ Open. Published version (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/2/e038409)

 Socioeconomic status affects our physical and mental health. There is a lack of research conducted to explore how parental SES changes reflect on the offspring’s mental health. To fulfill this gap we will identify roles of parental socioeconomic status in offspring’s mental health.

  • 2021-“Increased income over time predicts better self-perceived mental health” Journal of Affective Disorders. Published version (https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/articles/z603r3227?locale=en)

Mental health is linked with income, but we don’t know whether mental health influences income or vice versa. And, the relationship between mental health and income may vary between people. By using data from a large population cohort, we found low income was associated with poor health at a population level. The effects of income on health were even stronger for men and older adults.

  • 2021-“Social support mediates the relationship between decision authority and positive mental health in the workforce” Journal of Happiness Studies. Published version (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-021-00384-3)

Positive mental health is characterized by positive cognition about self, the world, and future. Decision authority not only had a direct effect on positive mental health but also can be mediated by social support. The role of social support in the relationship between decision authority and PMH varied by gender, personal income, and occupation groups. Workplace mental health promotion strategies should target social support at the same time taking socio-demographic characteristics into account.

  • 2020-“Changes in income predicting different mental health outcomes” BMC Psychiatry. Published version (https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02578-0)

Do changes in income reflect on mental health? Both income at beginning and later-on are important predictors for any kind of mental disorder and major depression. Males and females with low-income at baseline are more likely to have mental disorder at follow-up.

  • 2018-“ Increased perceived met needs for care over time” Psychiatry Research. Published version (https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/articles/kh04dv29c?locale=en)

Perceived needs for care can be used to understand barriers to mental health services use among people suffering from mental disorders. We found the overall perceived met needs slightly increased over time. There were several predictors that could be the potential target for improving the perceived need for mental health care.  

  • 2017-“ Modifiable risk factors associated with incident depression” BMJ Open. Published version (https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/6/e015156.long)

Depression is preventable. Modifiable risk factors can be used as targets for prevention. Risk reduction campaigns of modifiable risk factors can significantly prevent the occurrence of mental disorders. Modifiable risk factors, both individual and societal, could be the targets for public depression prevention programmes.

Lay summary of selected publications – Early life stress in neuropsychiatric disorders across the life span


  • 2022-“ Specific and cumulative lifetime stressors in the etiology of major depression”- Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. Published version (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences/article/specific-and-cumulative-lifetime-stressors-in-the-aetiology-of-major-depression-a-longitudinal-communitybased-population-study/AAFF9D33621086438EF33BF1514AFFCB)

We comprehensively examined how the specific and cumulative effects of lifetime stressors were associated with the development of depression and discovered significant individual effects of specific stressors as well as the cumulative effects of psychosocial stressors across the lifespan on the subsequent depression.
This study adds to the stress theories about different operationalisations of lifetime stressors predicting different risks of subsequent depression. This is true for both specific and cumulative lifetime stressors.

  • 2022-“ Intergenerational Effect of Maternal Childhood Maltreatment on Next Generation’s Vulnerability to Psychopathology”– Trauma, Violences, & Abuse. Published version (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1524838020933870)

This review and meta-analysis provide the first evidence on a quantitative estimate of the intergenerational effect of maternal childhood maltreatment on their offspring’s psychopathology. The findings of this review reinforce the need for policies to reduce the occurrence of childhood maltreatment, as it can influence not just one but two or possibly more generations.

  • 2020-“The hypothesis of developmental origins of depression” – Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Published version (https://doi-org.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/10.1111/jcpp.13358)

 Adverse in utero and perinatal exposures are associated with major depression in adolescence and adulthood. Low birth weight, premature birth, small gestational age, maternal education, socioeconomic status, having young parents (<20 years), having older parents (≥35 years), maternal smoking, paternal smoking, maternal stress, maternal anxiety, and maternal prenatal depression significantly increase the risk of depression among offspring. Clinical and public health interventions should focus on these identified risk factors.

  • 2019-“Childhood maltreatment can influence cognition” – Journal of Affective disorders. Published version (https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/articles/8623j380m?locale=en)

 Childhood maltreatment is closely related to normal cognitive development and ensuing adverse mental health outcomes and cognitive dysfunction. Public health strategies should be developed to prevent child maltreatment and mitigate its negative effects on cognition.

  • 2019-“Together, childhood maltreatment and genetic predispositions predict a higher risk of depression” – Journal of Affective disorders. Published version (https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/articles/0z7092581?locale=en)

 The relationship between child maltreatment and depression varies as a function of genetic factors. Few DNA methylation sites are involved in the childhood maltreatment-depression relationship. These DNA methylation sites shed light for future research.

  • 2018-“Resilience protects against negative consequences of maltreatment” Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology. Published version (https://escholarship.mcgill.ca/concern/articles/z890s031d?locale=en)

 Why some people are less likely to have the negative consequences of maltreatment? What factors protect them against these negative consequences? Individual, familial and societal factors are linked with resilience. Health prevention and promotion could significantly benefit from advances in neuroscience and biology of the stress system, as they can help to disentangle the complexity of biological mechanisms underlying the resilience-abuse relationship. 

  • 2016-“Ways of coping and distress can influence the level of psychological well-being ” Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. Published version (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7137609/)

  A good understanding of the relationships among psychological well-being, coping, and distress is pivotal to achieve good mental health. Mental health prevention and promotion in a general population should target reducing negative coping strategies to improve psychological well-being, as negative coping was the strongest predictor of increased distress in the general population. Distress was the most important predictor of psychological well-being. For people with psychiatric diseases, attention should be focused on the elimination of distress to maintain a higher level of psychological well-being.