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Data Resources for Behavioral and Social Research on Aging

NIA supports a variety of longitudinal studies, harmonization projects, archives, and repositories to facilitate research on aging in the behavioral and social sciences. Data from these studies are available to qualified researchers, subject only to restrictions imposed for some linked administrative data. With input from periodic reports, including those by the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and ad hoc expert review panels, BSR has developed a portfolio of data projects to meet evolving scientific priorities.

In 2015-2016, a Committee on Data Infrastructure conducted an assessment of the BSR portfolio of data infrastructure investments to meet the scientific needs of the social and behavioral research community to further understanding of the aging process and aging outcomes in the coming decade. A full report is available.

The National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA) at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) offers access to a broad range of datasets relevant to gerontological research. The Gateway to Global Aging Data is a platform for population survey data on aging around the world. This site offers a digital library of survey questions, a search engine for finding comparable questions across surveys, and identically defined variables for cross-country analysis

The links below include some of the major resources funded or co-funded by NIA:

Health and Retirement Study (HRS): Longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of over 20,000 people in America aged 50+.

Midlife in the United States (MIDUS): National longitudinal study of health and well-being that aims to investigate the role of behavioral, psychological, and social factors in accounting for age-related variations in health and well-being in a national sample of Americans.

National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS): Nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65+ that fosters research to guide efforts to reduce disability, maximize health and independent functioning, and enhance quality of life at older ages.

National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP): Longitudinal, population-based study of health and social factors to understand the well-being of older, community-dwelling Americans by examining the interactions among physical health and illness, medication use, cognitive function, emotional health, sensory function, health behaviors, social connectedness, sexuality, and relationship quality.

Panel Study of Income Dynamics: Nationally representative sample of over 18,000 individuals living in 5,000 families in the United States. PSID data are available on this website without cost to researchers and analysts.

A “family” of international studies, including the Health and Retirement Study in the United States, have worked to harmonize data to facilitate cross-national comparative research on aging.

A major new resource for the study of cognitive aging is data from the Harmonized Cognitive Aging Protocol. These data, from harmonized assessments linked to nationally or regionally representative samples of older people, greatly expand the possibilities for research on normal cognitive aging, cognitive impairment, and dementia in populations. Data for the United States (HCAP) and Mexico (MHAS) are already available for researchers; future releases will include data for England, 27 other European countries, China, India, and a rural region of South Africa.

For further information on these or other resources supported by NIA/BSR, please contact the BSR Office of Data Resources and Analytics.

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