Research and Funding

Division of Behavioral and Social Research

Featured Reports

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  • As part of a national priority to promote elder justice, a key focus of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, NIH is hosting a one-day workshop on understanding and preventing elder abuse and mistreatment. Elder abuse and mistreatment is a growing public health problem, and it has a devastating impact on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Despite growing awareness, the research field is still relatively new and there remain significant research gaps in detecting, preventing and intervening in elder abuse. Increased understanding of the origins of abuse, risk profiles and effective interventions may resonate across contexts of family violence, including elder abuse, child abuse and intimate partner violence.

  • The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) convened a meeting of experts with the National Research Council’s Committee on Population (CPOP) to consider the state of the science and most promising future directions for the demography of aging research. Topics of discussion included: (1) the state of the science in understanding connections between social and environmental factors and mortality, morbidity, and life expectancy; (2) the demography of aging and the family tree; (3) emerging tools, techniques, and approaches to understanding the economics of the demography of aging; (4) lessons learned in CPOP studies of the demography of aging; and (5) the contribution of biodemography to understanding the demography of aging. A meeting summary (PDF, 578K) is available.

  • On June 11-12, 2015, the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences held a workshop to explore research strategies to enhance mechanistic understanding about social and behavioral influences on aging. To contextualize this discussion and illustrate a range of approaches to testing causal hypotheses, presenters reviewed what is known about three exemplar factors that research has demonstrated are associated with healthy aging: optimism, marital satisfaction, and educational attainment. Subsequent discussions focused on possible research designs that have potential to improve our causal models, including approaches that enable causal inference from longitudinal observational studies, molecular and quantitative genetic approaches, and experimental approaches.

  • On June 4, 2015, the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) convened a seminar sponsored by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to solicit expert input on the most promising strategies for advancing intervention development efforts to reduce social isolation and loneliness in mid- to late-life. The seminar included introductory remarks from NIA staff members, four invited presentations, and group discussion. An agenda (PDF, 80K) and meeting summary report (PDF, 615K) of the presentations and discussions are available.

  • The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) convened an invitational meeting at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to: (1) better understand how the health research community uses death records and how the loss of access to the full Death Master File (DMF) affects health research; (2) better understand the issue from the perspective of the states as represented by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS); and (3) discuss promising ideas that could facilitate timely, comprehensive, cost-beneficial, and user-friendly means of research access to death records that are consistent with state interests and compliant with state and federal laws. A meeting summary (PDF, 556K) is available.

  • The National Research Council’s Committee on Population and the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive & Sensory Sciences convened a meeting of experts to consider the state of the field and new research directions of relevance to NIA on economic decision making for older populations. Discussions centered on the challenges of financial management in aging, the ability of aging individuals to meet these challenges, and the role of family, community, and others with respect to enabling aging individuals to manage their financial conditions, with a primary emphasis on the impact of poor economic decision making on the health of older persons.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Academies Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences to convene  an expert meeting to advise NIA on the most promising avenues for research to illuminate the pathways by which social, psychological, economic, and behavioral factors affect health in midlife and at older ages. Discussion focused on potential strategies for pooling and integrating existing longitudinal data, analytic techniques and intervention designs that permit causal analysis, exploring short-term processes as a window on long-term pathways, and the potential of genetically informed designs and approaches from the neurosciences to advance analysis of pathways.

  • The third and final Network on Reversibility meeting was held on October 14th and 15th, 2013 in London, UK. This workshop was hosted by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with support from the National Institute on Aging.  Meeting participants concluded a two year survey of a range of human and animal studies that a) clarified the observed links between early pre and postnatal adversity and adult health; b) suggested both psychological and biological mechanisms that accounted for these links and c) indicated directions for adult internventions that might diminish the risk of early adversity.

  • On May 22, 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH, in collaboration with the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), convened a meeting of eminent scientists from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics.  The presentations highlighted the potential for social and behavioral research to play a more influential role in the service of public policy, discuss strategies for bringing important research findings to the attention of policy makers, and identify lessons that can be learned from approaches undertaken in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team to leverage behavioral research findings.

  • There is increasing recognition that positive psychological functioning (PPF; including constructs such as optimism, positive emotions, and social connectedness) influences health above and beyond negative psychological functioning (including constructs such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness). Most research on the relationship between PPF and markers of health to date has focused on deteriorative biological processes and related health outcomes. Significantly less is known about restorative biological processes that may underlie health-relevant aspects of PPF. It seems possible that the biology associated with PPF is not merely the inverse of the processes associated with negative psychological functioning, particularly because the absence of negative psychological functioning does not necessarily indicate the presence of PPF.

  • Links between early prenatal and postnatal adverse experiences and physical and mental health in late adulthood have become well established.  Animal and human studies suggest that some of these risk persistence mechanisms are malleable. In fact, preventive interventions well into adult life may blunt or even reverse their negative effect on trajectories of health in aging individuals. In February 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a diverse team of experts for a second meeting on the Network on Reversibility with the goals to develop a program of research that tests feasible preventive interventions that might counter or compensate for risk persistence mechanisms influenced or induced by early adversity and to marshal a transdisciplinary approach to estimate the likely impact of such a program.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the Committee on National Statistics to convene an expert meeting to advise the NIA on approaches to identifying eligible participants aged 51 to 56 years old in 2016 for the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Traditional methods of screening households for the HRS have been expensive; identifying individuals from a narrow age band and recruiting statistically meaningful samples of Hispanic and black minorities are two key cost drivers during previous waves of screening. The expert meeting considered alternative screening methods that potentially could be less expensive without sacrificing a high quality, representative sample. A meeting summary is available here.

  • On September 10–11, 2012, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a diverse team of experts to launch its Network on Reversibility. The purpose of the Network is to define the scope of future research initiatives and to marshal a trans-disciplinary approach in the development of such programs. The members of the Network will combine their expertise to develop new ideas on how to test the hypothesis that harmful effects of early environmental adversity can be reversed in adulthood. Long-term goals include improvement of unfavorable health trajectories in mid-life and beyond. A summary of the meeting (PDF, 407K) is available.

  • Expert Meeting, June 18-19, 2012, The National Academies. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together select individuals with expertise in behavioral interventions, motivation theory, aging and life course development, and personality psychology to discuss how to apply knowledge and approaches from these fields to successful interventions to increase motivation in aging populations and improve aging outcomes. Discussions were designed to explore how a contemporary understanding of motivation can help us understand why some adults in mid-life or older adulthood develop economic and health-related problems associated with dependence, loneliness, and failures of self-control, and the interventions that may maximize autonomy, social engagement, and responsible care of self and others.

  • Issues of research integrity and the replication of research findings are central concerns in all disciplines. These issues in the social and behavioral sciences have been receiving a great deal of recent attention. Current discussions have focused on strengthening the role of replication in advancing scientific knowledge, and recognizing and correcting false-positive results. On June 4, 2012, a group of senior behavioral scientists and federal agency officials gathered to explore issues related to replication and reporting of false-positive results and to begin to formulate strategies for researchers, journal editors, and funding organizations that might remedy these problems. This meeting was sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science, the National Institute on Aging, and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

  • On November 29–30, 2011, BSR convened a workshop to explore harmonization strategies for behavioral, social science, and genetic research. The workshop brought together harmonization experts, principal investigators on harmonization projects, and staff from BSR, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development. Workshop participants reviewed harmonization basics, existing harmonization efforts and issues, enabling tools and technologies, and the immediate needs of BSR, with a particular focus on phenotype harmonization and the informatics associated with cataloguing studies and data. Discussions from the workshop were intended to guide BSR as it defines the scope and priorities for building a unified harmonization strategy for promoting research and genetic studies within its portfolio.

  • The Workshop on the Use of Well-being Measures in Policy Analysis was held November 2nd and 3rd, 2011, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The event was co-sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Brookings Institution, and was co-chaired by Lisbeth Nielsen of the NIA and Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution. The purpose of the Workshop was to debate the advantages, challenges and pitfalls of utilizing subjective well-being metrics for policy analysis. Dialogues built on discussions at a prior NIA and ESRC-supported National Academy of Sciences workshop on the policy potential and implications of well-being metrics.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) is actively involved in the effort to fully understand and plan for the emerging costs of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  This teleconference featured presentations by Peter Neumann and Pei-Jung Lin (Tufts Medical Center) on “Costs and Cost-Effectiveness in Alzheimer’s Disease” based on modeling of Medicare claims data, and by Michael Hurd (RAND Corporation) on “The Costs of Dementia” based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS), followed by general discussion. In addition to NIA staff from both BSR and the Division of Neuroscience, participants included staff from the Alzheimer’s Association, study collaborators, and other invited commentators.

  • The goal of the conference call was to discuss gaps and themes that emerged at the NAS meeting held in September 2010, paying particular attention to how adding genetics to social surveys might be used to revise behavioral and social theory. Discussion topics that were considered of high importance were(1) leveraging longitudinal data via the HRS, (2) using neural and molecular pathways to inform the work that will be conducted on the HRS; and (3) understanding how smaller studies supported by NIA and other institutions can be leveraged to better understand broader survey data such as that of the HRS.

    A report from the teleconference is available here.

  • The second of two planned conferences convened by the Committee on Population (CPOP) at the National Academies of Science.  This conference, organized in conjunction with the Indian National Science Academy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and Science Council of Japan and supported by NIA, assembled leading scientists to present the latest trends in population aging in Asia, to discuss the potential for greater international collaboration and to engage senior Asian policymakers and planners in dialogue.  A NAS publication, Aging in Asia: Findings from New and Emerging Data Initiatives contains the peer-reviewed collection of papers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand that were presented at this conference hosted by the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi, and papers from the first conference, which was hosted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing in 2010.

  • Recent research has verified that personality traits predict a range of outcomes in aging including health, longevity, economic security and general well-being. In the field of aging research one of these five, conscientiousness, stands out as a singularly striking predictor, often over many years, of important health and economic outcomes for aging individuals. Research to date has been of good quality and many important findings have been replicated. It is widely apparent that a new phase of research is now urgent: investigation that focuses on the mechanisms that account for these notable actuarial successes.

  • The first of two planned conferences convened by the Committee on Population (CPOP) at the National Academies of Science.  This conference, organized in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and Science Council of Japan and supported by NIA, assembled leading scientists to present the latest trends in population aging in Asia, to discuss the potential for greater international collaboration and to engage senior Asian policymakers and planners in dialogue.  A NAS publication, Aging in Asia: Findings from New and Emerging Data Initiatives contains the peer-reviewed collection of papers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand that were presented at this conference hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and papers from the second conference, which was hosted by the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi.

  • The U.S. National Institute on Aging, in collaboration with the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council commissioned the National Research Council Committee on National Statistics to convene two-day exploratory workshop on the application of subjective well-being measures to public policy. Leading academic and policy personnel from the US and UK explored the research needs and practical challenges surrounding the integration of measures of subjective well-being into the planning and evaluation of social and economic policies by local and national governments and agencies. This workshop is part of a larger effort of the NIA to support measurement advances and the integration of life-course themes into the science of well-being and to enhance the policy relevance of this field.  A meeting summary (PDF, 570 KB) is available here.

  • This one day exploratory workshop explored the use of economic phenotypes in large-scale research to promote an understanding of economic behavior. Invited participants included investigators studying economic behaviors from the perspectives of the cognitive, affective, and economic neurosciences, experimental economics, decision science, psychology, genetics, and population-based behavioral and social science surveys.  Participants addressed integrated approaches from psychology and neuroeconomics with survey research methods for measuring aging-relevant economic behaviors, traits and outcomes. Discussions focused on the development of a toolkit or battery of tests for measurement of economic phenotypes to enhance the links between laboratory and survey science and provide a foundation for genetic studies of fundamental economic behaviors.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Research Council Committee on Population to convene a two-day expert meeting to consider what data to collect on which traits and endophenotypes to optimize the HRS GWAS information as well as to explore ways in which the HRS can be harmonized with other types of large-scale studies to help uncover complex phenotypes attributable to genetics. Toward this end, more than 30 leaders in the fields of gerontology, economics, sociology, demography, genetics, population genetics, epidemiology, and psychology from throughout the United States and Europe convened in Washington, D.C., on September 23-24, 2010. A summary meeting report is now available (PDF, 754 K)

  • This expert meeting was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on National Statistics, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and was chaired by Connie Citro (CNSTAT) and Robert Wallace of the University of Iowa. The meeting was called to summarize the state-of-the-science in Elderly Mistreatment, identify gaps in knowledge, and elaborate on the types of work needed to advance the science since the National Research Council’s 2003 landmark publication Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation in an Aging America.

  • An exploratory teleconference on Conscientiousness and Healthy Aging was held to consider new directions in research on the links between personality and important aging outcomes. Discussion focused on three themes: (1) the next important research challenges in understanding links between conscientiousness and health, (2) extensions to biology and genetics and newer measurement approaches to facilitate such extensions, and (3) translational extensions, with an eye to interventions – are we in a position to consider this with respect to aging-relevant outcomes in the psychological and physical health domains. Background statements developed to frame the discussion are available (PDF, 564 KB). As a result of this teleconference, a future workshop on this topic area is being planned.

  • This expert meeting was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on Population, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and was chaired by Duncan Thomas of Duke University. The goal of the meeting was to foster better communication between researchers in the aging and disaster planning fields and to solicit suggestions for future research priorities in this area. Invited experts (in the fields of psychology, sociology, demography, simulation modeling, public policy, epidemiology and public health, and geriatrics) considered how the social and behavioral sciences might contribute research on the elderly in disasters, with particular emphases on settings and institutions, data challenges, and modeling. A meeting report is now available (PDF, 98 K).

  • The workshop on Advancing Integrative Psychological Research on Adaptive and Healthy Aging, was held at the Institute for Personality and Social Research (IPSR) at the University of California, Berkeley one day prior to the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Convention in San Francisco. The meeting was jointly organized by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging and IPSR. Presentations and panels focused on three major themes: (1) illustrating the use of innovative methodologies for advancing aging research, (2) identifying important research questions in each domain that are ripe for study now, and (3) laying the foundations for interdisciplinary collaborations. These three themes were explored in three separate sessions entitled: (1) Fundamental Social and Affective Processes in Aging, (2) Healthy Aging – Pathways and Mechanisms, and (3) Decision Making in Aging.

  • On August 2, 2008, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a discussion of research, data, and training needs in the area of sociology research relevant to the NIA. The gathering was timed to coincide with the 103rd annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston. This document summarizes points made during the presentations and discussion. There was no attempt to define a consensus. The agenda is included as appendix I.

  • The workshop on Opportunities for Advancing Behavioral and Social Research on Aging: An Introduction for Psychological Scientists was held at the 2008 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Annual Convention. The meeting was jointly organized by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, (John Cacioppo, Director, and 2007-08 President of APS) and the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging. The workshop brought new and established psychological scientists up to date on emerging directions in behavioral and social science research on aging and provided strategic guidance on incorporating aging-relevant questions into their scientific research programs.

  • The NIA held a workshop to determine how integration of lifespan development and genetics can clarify developmental mechanisms promoting selected domains of social and emotional competence in aging. Researchers representing the fields of economics, molecular biology, epigenetic science, and behavioral research presented heir work and engaged in discussions focused on stability and change, the interplay between gene and environment, and gene expression and epigenetic mechanisms. A meeting report is now available (PDF, 186 K)

  • An exploratory workshop focusing on theoretical and measurement issues relating to the concept of allostatic load, and more specifically on the question of assessing multiple and cumulative aspects of physiological aging and dysregulation. The goals of the workshop were to identify research needs and strategies for advancing the science in this area. The attached document (PDF, 182 KB) includes background statements from workshop participants, used to frame the discussion.

  • A exploratory workshop was held to consider what could be gained by adding genetic analyses to attempts to understand economic behavior. Economists, psychologists and neuroscientists discussed economic phenotypes, how these phenotypes could be measured, the level of analysis needed to assess individual differences within them, and how phenotypes might be influenced by aging. The workshop, chaired by David Laibson, David Reiss and Erica Spotts, fostered the exchange of ideas through formal presentations, invited commentary and general discussion. A final meeting report is also available (PDF, 190 KB).

  • An Ad Hoc Committee on Data Priorities, chaired by Lisa Berkman of Harvard University and James P. Smith of RAND, was asked to help NIA/BSR to assess likely needs for the data infrastructure for behavioral and social research on aging and recommend priorities for investment in data collection, archiving, and dissemination.

    We welcome your reactions to the Committee’s report or additional ideas. Please send them directly to John Haaga of NIA at, or if you prefer not to be identified, to Rose Li and Associates, who served as the committee’s secretariat:

    Please see the attached meeting report (PDF, 92 K).

  • To benefit from the possibility of exploiting cross-national differences to understand the effects of various policies, data collection efforts in various countries must be harmonized -- which means that conceptually comparable information be collected, and procedures (e.g., sampling and quality control) be synchronized to the extent possible. To this end, NIA convened a workshop to bring together data experts and the Principal Investigators of large national or cross-national datasets that are (or plan to be) harmonized with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. The group explored current issues in the measurement of key concepts of health, such as self-reporting of health status, and participated in a discussion of innovative methods for data collection and validity studies, including the use of vignettes and biomarkers, which have the potential to enhance comparability.

  • This 2-day exploratory workshop surveyed topics in social neuroscience of relevance to aging and addressed research and resource needs for advancing this field. Invited participants included leading researchers in social and personality psychology, genetics, neuroscience and neurobiology, biodemography, psychoneuroimmunology, and psychiatry who share an interest in social behaviors, and who have the breadth of knowledge regarding developmental and aging issues within their respective disciplines. Through targeted presentations and extended dialogue, participants addressed successful approaches, pitfalls, gaps in knowledge, next steps, and opportunities and needs for aging research in social neuroscience and how NIA and the scientific community could support development of this research area.

  • The topic of this conference was assessing the value of health. NIA intends to incorporate economic valuations of disease into its decisions about allocating research funding. The purpose of the conference was to strengthen research in the field by developing a future research agenda. Conference results would also be useful to the World Health Organization and relevant to national health accounts research. The conference was attended by 21 experts representing NIA, leading academic institutions, the private sector, and the national media. See conference summary.


  • As discussed in the National Research Council report Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa (2006), the impact of HIV/AIDS on adult mortality rates in Sub-Saharan Africa has reshaped the population structure and age distribution in most countries of this region, with important consequences for the elderly. A workshop in January 2007 considered research needs relevant to understanding the impact of HIV/AIDS on elders in Sub-Saharan Africa, and provided recommendations to NIA on a research agenda in this area.

  • This workshop was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on Population, and was chaired by Robert Wallace of the University of Iowa. The goal of the workshop was to consider specific, low-cost interventions drawing on the lessons of demography, public health, economics, community medicine, and other fields. The interdisciplinary approach is reflected in the invited presentations.

  • Dr. Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, the Nobel Laureate in Economics whose work has revolutionized thinking about the history of health in the U.S., will appear with colleague Dr. Dora L. Costa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to discuss findings from their NIA Program Project grant on the aging process of Union Army veterans. This ambitious project links vast amounts of information for a sample of Union Army veterans to allow researchers to study their aging process and compare it to that of later cohorts. Drs. Fogel and Costa will present their surprising findings from this study, which reveal a picture of humans today that is vastly different from 100 years ago. They will examine what their research suggests for current and future aging populations – cohorts that today are longer-lived, healthier, more affluent, and more urban than their predecessors – and what these trends imply for health, long-term care, and social security systems.

  • Since 2004, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Behavioral and Social Research Program has undertaken a research agenda to explore these factors, including a series of meetings, some held in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences, to assess the state of the science in judgment and decision-making research and to generate ideas for future research. These meetings have brought together psychologists and economists and have led to the recent release of a request for applications focused on neuroeconomics and aging. On August 16–17, 2006, the NIA Behavioral and Social Research Program held a work group meeting on decision making and aging. This work group, chaired by Dr. Jeff Elias, included researchers from similar fields but different approaches and focused more on the cognitive aspects of decision making and aging.


  • This workshop explored issues surrounding data sharing plans for NIA-sponsored behavioral and social research studies that collect human specimens (DNA and/or biologic data). Workshop participants considered the potential for deductive disclosure and risks to confidentiality and privacy resulting from the merging of biologic and genetic data with complex, deeply described phenotypes in social and behavioral research studies. The workshop presentations and discussions were intended to inform the development of NIA/BSR data sharing guidelines in this area.

  • The National Institute on Aging convened an exploratory workshop to share ideas about neuroeconomics and aging around a set of defined workshop goals. Presentations from experts in aging research in areas of social, cognitive, and personality psychology; cognitive and affective neuroscience; decision-making; and health and retirement economics framed the discusion of how the neuroeconomics perspective can be applied most fruitfully to issues of relevance to aging. This workshop built on themes developed in two NIA teleconferences on Neuroeconomics of Aging held in August 2005. PDFs of teleconference participants' prepared statements of research opportunities in neuroeconomics of aging, and summaries of the August 12, 2005 and  August 26, 2005 teleconferences are available below.  A copy of the NIA Funded Grants on Neuroeconomics of Aging is also available.

  • The NIA asked the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Population, to hold two expert meetings to discuss the National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS) and to consider future options for the survey. The first meeting was held on October 7, 2005. A follow-up meeting was held on Tuesday, February 14, 2006, which addressed in more detail policy and research uses of a continued NLTCS, and alternative options for scientific aims and survey designs. In addition to the workshop summary, NIA has made available the papers commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences which were discussed at the February 14 meeting:

  • The goal of the health accounts project is to produce a new set of National Health Accounts which will explicitly measure health in addition to medical spending. To relate health outcomes to costs, the accounts will decompose both health and medical spending by particular diseases. Such accounts will allow researchers to ask such questions as: (1) How has the population's health changed over time? (2) To the extent health has improved, what accounts for this change? (3) What is the productivity of medical spending? (4) What changes in the medical system would increase the value of the system as a whole?


  • The Center for the Study of Behavior and Development, in the Division of Behavioral and Social Science, National Academies of Science, in conjunction with BSR, conducted this meeting. Topics discussed included the neural basis of decision making, the design of health decision aids, the role of affect and emotion in decision making, the effects of age and social context on decision making, and aging and decision making competence. The meeting was exploratory, to help develop directions for future NIA research in this area.

  • The NIA asked the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Population, to hold an expert meeting to discuss the National Long Term Care Survey (NLTCS) and to consider future options for the survey. There was general support for continuing to address long-term care and disability questions from both academic and policy quarters. However, the discussion raised a number of issues for further consideration, including the advisability of collecting biomarkers and associated implementation strategies, increasing the periodicity, collecting more detailed data on the living arrangements of older adults with chronic disability, collecting information to understand the environmental components of disability separate from the functional components, and adding to the screener questions to collect more information about individuals without chronic disability (frequently called screen-outs) in order to better assess incidence.

  • Sponsored by NIA. The purpose of this meeting was to help NIA identify the most promising research opportunities related to macroeconomics and aging. Participants reviewed population aging in a global context, the size of the 60 and 80 populations, the health of the elderly, and variations across countries. It is likely that the links between population aging and macroeconomics are mediated by the institutional context (retirement policy and pension and health care systems) and the economic context (degree of integration into regional and global economies). Issues for theoretical and empirical research include: (1) Demographic forecasting; (2) Savings, investment, and finance; (3) Labor, human capital, and migration; (4) Changes in sectoral structure; (5) Public and private financing of pensions and healthcare; and (6) Economic growth.

  • Sponsored by NIA and NICHD. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together grantees of the Intergenerational Family Resource Allocation RFA to present projects to each other, discuss methodological and data collection issues, and create an interdisciplinary network of researchers doing work on intergenerational resource allocation. Other goals were to bring together researchers doing work related to children with those doing work in the aging field, so that the groups could be aware of each other; to familiarize economists with relevant work in child development and aging; and to ensure that the two major funding agencies in intergenerational resource allocation are "on the same page" in terms of topics of interest.


  • Sponsored by NIA, the meeting focused on inter-disciplinary work aimed at developing new, innovative approaches to policy questions. Based on the organizers' belief that a natural alliance exists between social psychologists and behavioral economists, their intent was to have top-notch scientists in these fields collaborate on developing interventions that could eventually be useful for a variety of health applications of interest to BSR/NIA.

  • NIA gathered eminent researchers on September 28 to discuss with journalists, “How can we prepare to meet the challenges of an aging population?” The answers, at least according to this NIA-supported group of leading social, behavioral, and economic scientists, will come from creative thinking and new approaches to some of today’s most difficult questions, such as the rise in health expenditures and major gaps in personal savings for retirement.

  • The World Health Organization’s Multi-Country Studies team developed the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) to collect a range of valid, reliable, and comparable information on the health and well-being of older persons in low and middle income countries that could be used by national health information systems to fill critical information gaps. Data modules would include self-reported health assessments linked to anchoring vignettes and traditional measures of functioning combined with measured performance testing in various health domains. The first technical consultation sought expert advice on the content of the survey instrument, the design and implementation of the longitudinal follow-up, and validation methods to improve comparability. The second advisory group meeting recommended final content and study design.


  • The purpose of this conference was to examine which factors appear to explain mortality reductions over time as well as cross-sectionally, both within and between countries. Another purpose was to attempt to resolve differences in the existing theories, including considering whether there might exist a unified framework to characterize mortality changes and differentials. The meeting was largely informal and there was no presentation of papers. Directions for future work included extending work beyond industrialized countries, understanding differences in behavior, understanding the long-term impacts of nutrition and other inputs early in life and across generations, and reconciling trends and cross-section results.


  • There has been a noticeable trend in the growing complexity of decisions being faced in old age, e.g., pensions and benefit issues, portfolio investment decisions, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance options. BSR convened a small working group to share ideas in the area of decision making and aging. The presentations highlighted the importance of affect and motivation on judgments, probability perception, and decision making. Age differences in affective/experiential and deliberative processes have important theoretical implications for both theory and application. Some of the underlying themes of the discussion were: the need for greater cross-disciplinary understanding; the need to identify common problems of interest; the need for better models; and the need for better cognitive data.


  • The purpose of this workshop was for behavioral and social science researchers funded by the NIA, who are using data originating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to exchange information in order to facilitate coordination, collaboration, and communication between researchers and agency staff, and to identify common issues. The presentations by grantees exemplify the many uses of Medicare data, including the study of performance and productivity of hospitals, long-term care and hospice facilities, and medical care and treatments; variations in end-of-life care; cohort and time trends in Medicare expenditures; effects of physician specialization and experience on costs and outcomes of hospital care; and health and technology trends and their consequences for Medicare.


  • The objective of this meeting hosted by the Social Sciences Research Council was to explore the “successes” (advances, breakthroughs, etc.) and “failures” (weaknesses, shortcomings, etc.) of the social and behavioral sciences in the field of aging in the last 30 years. The focus was on discussions pertaining to where, when, and why social and behavioral science advances have occurred in the area of aging. One of the summary points from these discussions was that scientific “successes” should not be thought of just in terms of theoretical breakthroughs in scientific paradigms but also in terms of material advances to scientific practices. For example, newer forms of longitudinal data collection and analysis have expanded not only the descriptive but also the predictive capacity of social sciences in various areas, including aging.


  • This symposium considered the best methods for training. Is training best done within the context in which it will be used (e.g., perceptual speed, memory, exercise, technology use)? Is multiple system training the best method, and how do we determine what systems are affected? What are the physiological correlates of training and transfer of training? What is the impact of social engagement on cognition? How should we define successful training? How long do training effects have to last to be successful? Who are the best candidates for cognitive training and why?

  • The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has an ongoing project on the foundations of disability decline, what might be done to extend and accelerate future improvements in functional ability, and how the benefits of disability decline can be evaluated in economic terms. A group of economists, demographers, epidemiologists, and physicians are examining the causes and characteristics of past disability trends to identify the core foundations of disability decline, and to think about improving functional ability in the future. Five research strategies have been identified: 1) Characterizing disability decline; 2) Pathways to disability; 3) Health conditions that lead to disability; and 4) Economic and labor market implications of disability decline.


  • National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) hosted a 1-day workshop on the NLMS and the LEHD, data sets partially sponsored by BSR but underutilized by grantees. The objective was to introduce these data sets to researchers from NIA’s 11 Demography Centers so they would think about using the data sets. The workshop provided participants the opportunity to learn what the new data sources provide, what issues they can be used to address, and how they can be obtained. More information about the data sets can be found below.

  • BSR organized a 1-day meeting on effective uses of physical performance measures in population-based studies (as opposed to the self-reported measures of disability which have historically been used). This meeting reviewed existing performance protocols and discussed several important issues relating to use of performance measures in population-based studies. BSR developed a consensus document that outlined the various physical performance protocols available for use in various studies of aging. The goal was to develop a reference manual useful to researchers interested in using such performance protocols in their studies.


  • This one-day conference, sponsored by the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences (CBRSS) at Harvard University and NIA, convened a multidisciplinary group of social scientists to explore the potential for small, inexpensive and noncoercive psychological and sociological interventions to influence human behavior in a range of policy settings. Changing human behavior, even for someone's own good, can be a huge undertaking. This conference featured research from the fields of economics, social psychology, and public health. The purpose was to shed light on the particular mechanisms and conditions under which simple psychologically-styled methods of changing behavior can provide easier and more effective ways of aligning good intentions with actions.


  • The World Health Organization’s Multi-Country Studies team developed the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) to collect a range of valid, reliable, and comparable information on the health and well-being of older persons in low and middle income countries that could be used by national health information systems to fill critical information gaps. Data modules would include self-reported health assessments linked to anchoring vignettes and traditional measures of functioning combined with measured performance testing in various health domains. The first technical consultation sought expert advice on the content of the survey instrument, the design and implementation of the longitudinal follow-up, and validation methods to improve comparability. The second advisory group meeting recommended final content and study design.


  • This workshop explored issues related to incorporating environmental factors from the behavioral and social sciences into genetically informative studies of aging. Development of this area is critical to understanding central issues surrounding gene expression, including gene-environment interactions and covariation and gene expression (i.e., how it is affected by social contexts and behaviors). A special issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological and Social Sciences (Vol. 60B, March 2005) was based on the presentations.

  • Workshop participants provided expertise across a wide range of fields: numerical cognition, quantitative and document literacy, mathematics, judgment and decision-making, neuropsychology, and behavioral economics. The specific topics covered at the workshop included:

    • age-related changes in numerical processing strategies
    • proportional and probabilistic reasoning processes
    • estimation skills, investment, and risk-taking behaviors
    • financial abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Cognition in Context
    April 8, 2002

    This meeting was sponsored by NIA's BSR and Neuroscience and Neuropsychology programs. The meeting addressed such issues as: (1) identification of gaps in knowledge about the impact of various contexts on cognition; (2) the feasibility of research on the confluence of different kinds of contexts on cognition; (3) the importance of natural versus artificial contexts; and (4) how findings from these types of studies can be conceptualized more generically. This meeting was held as a result of one of the recommended research initiatives in the recent National Research Council report, The Aging Mind.


  • This meeting explored directions for developing behavioral genetics and aging research. It included experts on human studies of behavioral genetics and aging and experts on animal and model organisms. A special issue of Journal of Behavior Genetics (Vol. 33, March 2003) was based on the presentations.

  • This workshop engaged leading scholars in an exploratory discussion of the characteristics, causes, and consequences of disability decline in the US, specifically investigating what is known about disability trends and what should be learned from future research. The workshop identified agreed-on research findings related to disability trends; identified areas of ambiguity or disagreement; and developed foci for future investigations.

  • Three related meetings were held in 1999-2000 (Burden of Illness, Psychology and Economics, and Old and New Measures of Wellbeing) concerned with issues of interest to psychology, economics and medicine, and to various emerging hybrid disciplines such as behavioral medicine and behavioral economics.

    Recommendations from Burden of Illness (BOI): Develop models for specific diseases and conditions. Test alternative approaches for assessing health states and for assessing the values assigned to different health states. How sensitive are values of the summary measure to changes in such subcomponents as mortality, incidence, or specific dimensions of functioning?