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HRS International Family of Studies and the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol

Health and Retirement Study & HRS International Family of Studies

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a longitudinal panel study that surveys a nationally representative sample of approximately 20,000 people in the United States aged 50 and older, supported by NIA (U01AG009740) and the Social Security Administration. The HRS International Family of Studies provides nationally representative, longitudinal data with multidisciplinary content for individual countries. These studies are modeled after the HRS in the U.S.

Through in-depth interviews, the HRS International Family of Studies provides an invaluable and growing body of multidimensional data related to economics and health. Researchers can use these data to address important research questions on aging and offer the opportunity for cross-national comparisons.

The HRS International Family of Studies are designed to facilitate research across multiple international contexts. In addition, these studies share key principles:

  • Nationally representative
  • Longitudinal
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Internationally comparable (harmonized)
  • Data sharing
  • Rich cognitive assessment
  • Bio sample collection

These studies provide publicly available, harmonized, multidisciplinary longitudinal data, including biomarkers and physical performance measures, on aging and the health and well-being of the older population, with dedicated sub-studies focused on cognitive aging and dementia. Information related to these studies and links to the datasets are available on the NIA-supported Gateway to Global Aging.

The HRS International Family of Studies include:

Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol

The Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) is a sub-study within the HRS in the U.S. and within some of the studies in the HRS International Family of Studies. The HCAP seeks to measure and understand dementia risk by collecting a carefully selected set of established cognitive and neuropsychological assessments and informant reports to better characterize cognitive function among older people. As the HCAP is part of the larger HRS, these studies are especially good for studying risk and protective factors related to Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD) in the context of well-characterized longitudinal, population-representative social surveys. The details about the 2016 HCAP protocol can be found here (PDF, 442K).

HCAP studies around the world include:

HRS and HCAP Research Resources

The Division of Behavioral and Social Research also supports networks and infrastructure to develop and use HRS and HCAP data for cross-national studies. The HRS Around the World and HCAP Networks serve as a resource for those interested in conducting studies in their own countries. The Gateway to Global Aging provides information related to available data. If interested in submitting an application, visit the Before You Apply for a Global Aging Behavioral and Social Research Project page for more information.

The Health and Retirement Studies Around the World network fosters collaboration among researchers to ensure harmonization of data elements and methods across the HRS International Family of Studies. The network also supports pilots to develop new survey methodology or establish comparability for research across studies.

The HCAP Network supports a group of researchers working together to support harmonization of international studies using the harmonized cognitive assessment protocol. The goal of the HCAP Network is to develop international data resources for the study of AD/ADRD. The HCAP Network facilitates harmonization of cognitive tests and measures necessary for good comparative research through a range of activities.

The Gateway to Global Aging facilitates cross-national and longitudinal studies of aging from the HRS International Family of Studies from around the world. The resource provides comparisons of measures across surveys, data downloads to harmonized datasets and codebooks, visualization tools based on the harmonized data, and publications based on surveys. In addition, the Gateway website includes a compilation of COVID data across several studies that can be used for comparative analyses.

Back to BSR’s Global Aging Page

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