Investigating the Diffusion of Agent-based Modelling and System Dynamics Modelling in Population Health and Healthcare Research

Shiyong Liu, Hong Xue, Yan Li, Judy Xu, Youfa Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


System dynamics modelling (SDM) applications in health research began to appear in 1972 while agent-based modelling (ABM) applications first appeared in 1995, but their applications have increased dramatically over the last decade. This study examines the diffusion patterns of these two approaches and the main driving factors. We conducted a systematic analysis of 653 journal articles published from 1972 to 2014 that employed two approaches in health research and found that over the last few years, there has been a rapid increase of studies in using ABM compared with SDM, partly due to the launching of new journals and the application of ABM to a broad range of topics. The concentration of SDM studies in just a few journals may be adversely affecting its diffusion. The last decade saw acceleration in using ABM to investigate infectious diseases and cancer while SDM applications have predominantly focused on non-communicable diseases such as obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSystems Research and Behavioral Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • Agent-based modelling
  • Diffusion
  • Health research
  • System dynamics modelling
  • Systems science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Information Systems and Management

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