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Global Aging

NIA supports research and resources to facilitate behavioral and social research on the life course, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD) globally.

Global Aging Behavioral & Social Research Overview

Increasing longevity and declining fertility lead to population aging and a shift in the age distribution of a population. Such a shift has implications for individuals, families, and societies as governments and other institutions seek to answer questions related to health care, housing, pension programs, work and retirement, and caregiving. Research is needed to guide key program and policy decisions.

The Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at NIA supports research on life course health and well-being, including AD/ADRD. Conducting research on aging and the life course in international settings provides opportunities to study geographic areas that vary socially, economically, and culturally. This type of research can help us better understand how aging in different institutional, policy, environmental, economic, social, and cultural contexts can lead to different health and welfare outcomes for individuals and populations, including those related to AD/ADRD. The cross-national laboratory provides opportunities to examine differences in national and regional policies in ways that studies of specific countries cannot. This information can inform interventions and policies in the United States and globally to improve population health.

BSR has played a leadership role in global aging research through its work with partners in academia, government, foundations, and other research-supporting agencies. Notably, the NIA-funded Health and Retirement Study (HRS) has served as the model for large-scale nationally representative longitudinal studies in other countries.

Key areas of research emphasis include, but are not limited to:

  • Improve understanding of how aging in different international contexts mitigates or exacerbates health disparities in aging
  • Comparative studies of how differences in institutional and policy features of health care provision and financing influence access, utilization, and health outcomes across the life course and at older ages
  • Comparative dementia and dementia care research in different environmental, economic, social, and cultural contexts
  • Development of multilevel, multidisciplinary, longitudinal data with cognitive measures coupled with biomarkers and administrative data to facilitate cross-national studies of aging and dementia
  • Analyses of population-based data to inform improvements in informal and formal caregiving and dementia care

These priorities are based on BSR’s broader research priorities, which are outlined in the NIA Strategic Directions for Research, 2020-2025 (PDF, 3M); NACA 2019 BSR Review Committee Report (PDF, 433K); AD & ADRD Research Implementation Epidemiology/Population Studies Milestones; and Understanding the Role of the Exposome in Brain Aging, AD & ADRD workshop summary (PDF, 661K).

BSR is particularly committed to studies that help us improve our understanding in low- and middle-income countries because aging research in these countries has been limited.

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