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Understanding Pathways to Successful Aging: How Social and Behavioral Factors Affect Health at Older Ages

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. These approaches hold potential for illuminating pathways linking a broad range of social and behavioral factors to aging outcomes (beyond the examples discussed at this meeting), and their application may strengthen our mechanistic causal models. This summary report of the workshop discussions and the meeting agenda (PDF, 122K) are available.