Publicly Available Databases for Aging-Related Secondary Analyses in the Behavioral and Social Sciences
The databases included in this document have been supported entirely or in part by the National Institute on Aging.
Updated September, 2013
This document provides snapshots of selected publicly available data collections supported in whole or in part by the National Institute on Aging Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) to promote understanding of aging populations both domestically and throughout the world. The NIA/BSR subscribes fully to the NIH data sharing policy, and encourages its researchers to develop efficient and feasible data sharing plans, thus reinforcing open scientific inquiry and promoting the testing of new or alternative hypotheses and methods of analysis.
This compendium is intended to serve as a useful first step in a researcher’s search for a potentially suitable dataset to address a particular question or questions of interest. Links to relevant study websites are included for those seeking additional information. For a broader universe of available data collections useful for aging research, readers are directed to the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA).
The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) provides nationally representative estimates of how, where, and with whom Americans spend their time, and is the only federal survey providing data on the full range of nonmarket activities, from childcare to volunteering. ATUS data files are used by researchers to study a broad range of issues; the data files include information collected from over 136,000 interviews conducted from 2003 to 2012.
The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years. Supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA U01AG009740) and the Social Security Administration, the HRS explores the changes in labor force participation and the health transitions that individuals undergo toward the end of their work lives and in the years that follow. Since its launch in 1992, the study has collected information about income, work, assets, pension plans, health insurance, disability, physical health and functioning, cognitive functioning, and health care expenditures. Through its unique and in-depth interviews, the HRS provides an invaluable and growing body of multidisciplinary data that researchers can use to address important questions about the challenges and opportunities of aging.
HRS sister studies in other countries available through RAND Survey Meta Data Repository.
The Survey Meta Data Repository is a collection of HRS-family survey data. It includes a digital library of survey questions, a search engine for finding comparable questions across the surveys, and a set of identically defined variables for cross-country analysis.
These studies are also listed individually under the International Studies section.
MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) is a national sample of continental U.S. residents, aged 25 to 74, who were first interviewed in 1995-96. The original study was conceived by a multidisciplinary team of investigators interested in the influence of psychological and social factors on health, broadly defined, as people age from early adulthood to later life. MIDUS is a collaborative, interdisciplinary investigation of patterns, predictors, and consequences of midlife development in the areas of physical health, psychological well-being, and social responsibility. The scientific scope of the study was extended by adding comprehensive biological assessments on a subsample of respondents. In its longitudinal extension, MIDUS thus became a forum for investigating health as an integrative process, which involved combining the behavioral and social sciences together with bio-medically oriented research.
The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) is a new resource for the scientific study of functioning in later life. The NHATS is being conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, with data collection by Westat, and support from the National Institute on Aging. In design and content, NHATS is intended to foster research that will guide efforts to reduce disability, maximize health and independent functioning, and enhance quality of life at older ages.
National Long Term Care Survey (NLTCS)
The National Long Term Care Survey is a longitudinal survey designed to study changes in the health and functional status of older Americans (aged 65+). It also tracks health expenditures, Medicare service use, and the availability of personal, family, and community resources for caregiving.
The NLTCS survey population consists of a sample of 35,789 people drawn from national Medicare enrollment files in 1982 that has been augmented with subsequent samples of approximately 20,000 Medicare enrollees obtained by adding 5,000 people passing age 65 between successive surveys done approximately every five years. This technique ensures a large, nationally-representative sample at each point in time. Both elderly in the community (including those not impaired) and those residing in institutions are represented in the samples. The survey is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau using trained interviewers, and the response rate is above 95 percent for all waves.
The National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) is a longitudinal, population-based study of health and social factors, aiming 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. NSHAP provides policy makers, health providers, and individuals with useful information and insights into these factors, particularly on social and intimate relationships. The study contributes to finding new ways to improve health as people age.
The Panel Study of Income Dynamics - PSID - is the longest running longitudinal household survey in the world. The study began in 1968 with a nationally representative sample of over 18,000 individuals living in 5,000 families in the United States. Information on these individuals and their descendants has been collected continuously, including data covering employment, income, wealth, expenditures, health, marriage, childbearing, child development, philanthropy, education, and numerous other topics. The PSID is directed by faculty at the University of Michigan, and the data are available on this website without cost to researchers and analysts.
Project Talent is a national longitudinal study that first surveyed America’s high school students in 1960. At the time, it was the largest and most comprehensive study of high school students ever conducted in the United States. Over 440,000 students from 1,353 schools across the country participated in two full days or four half days of testing. The study was developed by the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute, and several other organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh, through a Cooperative Agreement. It was funded by the United States Office of Education. Fifty years later, the American Institutes for Research is planning to follow up with participants from the original 1960 study.
The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) is a long-term study of a random sample of 10,317 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. The WLS provides an opportunity to study the life course, intergenerational transfers and relationships, family functioning, physical and mental health and well-being, and morbidity and mortality from late adolescence through 2008. WLS data also cover social background, youthful aspirations, schooling, military service, labor market experiences, family characteristics and events, social participation, psychological.
INDEPTH is a global network of HDSSs. Its 41 member centres observe the life events of millions of people in 20 LMICs in Africa, Asia and Oceania. Since its inception in 1998, the network has gathered a treasure trove of robust data, and is uniquely positioned both to answer the most pressing questions on health, population dynamics and development, and to provide policy-makers and donors with evidence on the impact of interventions.
This network of health and demographic surveillance systems (HDSSs) collects data from whole communities over extended time periods that reflect health and population problems in LMICs. By monitoring new health threats, tracking population changes through fertility rates, death rates and migration, and measuring the effect of policy interventions on communities, HDSSs provide information that enables policy-makers to make informed decisions and to adapt their programs to changing conditions.
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is a longitudinal study that collects multidisciplinary data from a representative sample of the English population aged 50 and older. The survey data are designed to be used for the investigation of a broad set of topics relevant to understanding the ageing process. Both objective and subjective data are collected covering themes such as: health trajectories, disability and healthy life expectancy, the determinants of economic position in older age; the links between economic position, physical health, cognition and mental health; the nature and timing of retirement and post-retirement, labour market activity; household and family structure, social networks and social supports; patterns, determinants and consequences of social, civic and cultural participation and predictors of well-being. ELSA is led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot and is jointly run by teams at University College London (UCL), the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), National Centre for Social Research and the University of Manchester.
The Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) started as a prospective panel study of health and aging in Mexico. The MHAS study will design, field, and disseminate the data to achieve research goals that include: examining the aging processes and its disease and disability burden in a large representative panel of older Mexicans; evaluating the effects of individual behaviors, early life circumstances, migration and economic history, community characteristics, and family transfer systems on multiple health outcomes; comparing the health dynamics of older Mexicans with comparably aged Mexican-born migrants in the U.S. and second generation Mexican-American using similar data from the U.S. population (for example the biennial Health and Retirement Study HRS) to assess the durability of the migrant health advantage; assess the health of all components of the population from which migrants are selectively recruited; and considering ways in which intergenerational transfer systems affect old-age health dynamics in a country where migration is commonplace and remittances may repay prior investments or ensure against uncertainty in old age.
The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of micro data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of more than 85,000 individuals (approximately 150,000 interviews) from 19 European countries (+Israel) aged 50 or over. SHARE responds to a Communication by the European Commission calling to "examine the possibility of establishing, in co-operation with Member States, a European Longitudinal Ageing Survey.” SHARE is centrally coordinated by Axel Börsch-Supan, Ph.D. at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy. It is harmonized with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and has become a role model for several ageing surveys worldwide.
Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA)
Korea became an ageing society in 2000, as the proportion of those 65 or older reached 7% of the population. Lacking in basic data on ageing, Korea is in need of a structured set of statistical data. Institutional reform and policy-making in preparation against the aged society requires systematic build-up of data that can track individuals' labor participation, income and asset status, spending patterns, retirement decisions, impact of social welfare, health, and intra-family transfer of income, among others. The purpose of KLoSA is to create the basic data needed to devise and implement effective social, economic policies to address the trends that emerge in the process of population ageing. The data will help identify and observe different dimensions of an aged society, build datasets that enable studies in different fields, and generate data comparable with similar panel studies in other countries (eg. U.S., Europe) that can provide the basis for policy-making and academic studies.
The Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) is run by the World Health Organization's Multi-Country Studies unit in the Information, Evidence and Research Cluster. SAGE is part of the unit's Longitudinal Study Programme which is attempting to compile comprehensive longitudinal data on the health and well-being of adult populations, and the ageing process across different countries, through primary data collection and secondary data analysis.
The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of micro data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of more than 55,000 individuals from 20 European countries aged 50 or over. Israel joined SHARE in 2004. The first wave of data collection was conducted in Israel between October 2005 and July 2006, among 1771 Israeli households. A total of 2598 men and women were interviewed face-to-face. The second wave of data collection started in August 2009 and ended in August 2010, making longitudinal data available.
The Irish LongituDinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a study of a representative cohort of over 8500 people resident in Ireland aged 50+, charting their health, social and economic circumstances over a 10-year period. The second wave of data collection was completed this year. TILDA is unique amongst longitudinal studies internationally in the breadth of physical, mental health and cognitive measures collected.
Data are lacking on the health, social support, and economic security of India’s growing elderly population, and concern is mounting about the well-being of this expanding group. By assembling a research team of demographers, economists, medical doctors, sociologists, and public health and policy experts, LASI aims to supply the data needed to take stock of the situation of India’s elderly population. It is hoped that this evidence base will contribute to cross-national studies of aging and will inform the design of policies that can protect and support the growing elderly community.
The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) aims to collect a high quality nationally representative sample of Chinese residents ages 45 and older to serve the needs of scientific research on the elderly. The baseline national wave of CHARLS is being fielded in 2011and includes about 10,000 households and 17,500 individuals in 150 counties/districts and 450 villages/resident committees. The individuals will be followed up every two years. All data will be made public one year after the end of data collection.
In order to establish a sustainable social security system in Japan, whose population is aging ahead of other developed countries, it is crucial to make available micro-data on the diverse aspects of the lives of elderly people. Extensive surveys have been conducted on elderly people in many other countries, and the resulting data have been utilized not only for academic and research purposes, but also as a valuable input for real-world policymaking. Despite the rapid aging of the Japanese population, no statistical survey that could properly capture the diversity of the elderly population from various viewpoints had been carried out in Japan until recently.
Against this backdrop, RIETI and Hitotsubashi University jointly launched a comprehensive survey of elderly people in 2007 to collect panel data on their lives and health, with the University of Tokyo joining from 2009 onward. The data collected in this survey include diverse information on the economic, social, and health conditions of elderly people. In addition, the survey is designed to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, comparability with preceding surveys such as the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the United States, the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) in continental Europe, and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) in the United Kingdom. Therefore, by analyzing JSTAR data, researchers can track the characteristics of the Japanese elderly population in terms of both their specificity and universality in the world. In this sense, JSTAR is Japan's first-ever globally comparable panel data survey of elderly people.
With 2,832 participants, the ACTIVE Study is the largest study on cognitive training ever performed. Funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the National Institute on Aging, the Indiana University School of Medicine, Penn State University, and others, the ACTIVE study proves that healthy older adults can make significant cognitive improvements with appropriate cognitive training and practice. It also demonstrates that Posit Science training drives improvements that are significantly better than other types of cognitive exercise.
The REACH study was a multisite caregiver intervention study that compared a variety of interventions for dementia caregivers to control conditions. The study was a landmark in its large sample size, use of multiple sites, and inclusion of large numbers of White, Hispanic, and African American caregivers.
The Interplay of Genes and Environment across Multiple Studies (IGEMS) group is a consortium of eight longitudinal twin studies established to explore the nature of social context effects and gene-environment interplay in late-life functioning. The resulting analysis of the combined data from over 17,500 participants aged 25–102 at baseline (including nearly 2,600 monogygotic and 4,300 dizygotic twin pairs and over 1,700 family members) aims to understand why early life adversity, and social factors such as isolation and loneliness, are associated with diverse outcomes including mortality, physical functioning (health, functional ability), and psychological functioning (well-being, cognition), particularly in later life.
The Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA) provides a unique opportunity to understand individual differences in aging. The twin design and the inclusion of twins reared apart makes it possible to study the importance of genetic and environmental factors that may underlie differing aging outcomes. Further, the broad spectrum of biological, psychological, and social domains assessed across the life span makes it possible to study patterns of change within and across domains and how these predict health and diseases of aging.
The Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA) is a large-scale investigation of cognitive aging from middle to later age. The intended sample was recruited from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry (VETR), a registry of middle-aged male-male twin pairs who both served in the United States military during the Vietnam conflict (1965-1975). VETSA employs a multitrait, multimethod approach to cognitive assessment to focus on the genetic and environmental contributions to cognitive processes over time, as well as the relative contributions to cognitive aging from health, social, personality, and other contextual factors.
The IALSA research network is a collaborative research infrastructure for coordinated interdisciplinary, cross-national research aimed at the integrative understanding of within-person aging-related changes in health and cognition. The (IALSA) network is currently comprised of over 25 longitudinal studies on aging, spanning eight countries, with a combined sample size of approximately 70,000 individuals. These studies represent a mix of population representative, volunteer, and special population samples. Within the network, data have been collected on individuals aged 18 to over 100, with birth cohorts ranging from 1880 to 1980, and historical periods from 1956 to the present. Between-occasion intervals range from 6 months to 17 years (the majority 1-5 years), with between 2 and 32 (mainly 3-5) measurement occasions spanning 4 to 48 years of within-person assessment.
The following document includes databases that have been supported entirely or in part by NIA. It is grouped by current archival status: (1) data sets archived at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research Data Archive (ICPSR), available on CD, or through the Internet; (2) data sets expected to be archived in the future, but currently available through principal investigator (PI); (3) data sets not expected to be archived, but available through the PI; and (4) data sets expected to be archived, but currently unavailable. Data may not be up to date; please check investigator’s website for updated information.