News Release

NSHAP advances study of older adults’ well-being

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Gerontological Society of America

A new supplemental issue to The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences presents new measures, methods, and data, collected during Round 3 (2015-16) of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) in which a second cohort was added: the Baby Boomers.

NSHAP is a longitudinal, representative study of health, well-being, and social factors among community-dwelling older adults. There are three rounds of publicly available data through the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging, and a fourth round of data collection currently is underway.

The supplemental issue is essential reading for users of NSHAP data, those interested in understanding key social and physical measures (including biomeasures), and those developing measures for other studies. This issue provides the scientific underpinning for conducting statistical analyses using NSHAP — and points users to a repository of code (Stata, SAS) used by authors for constructing key measures described in the articles.

Articles describe a range of topics, including the sampling strategy for the new Baby Boomer cohort and the innovative methods used during data collection. These were used to collect a third wave of data with NSHAP’s first cohort (Cohort 1 Wave 3, born 1920-1947) and a first wave of data from the new Baby Boomer cohort (Cohort 2 Wave 1, born 1948-1965). The addition of a second cohort made it possible to compare respondents born during different historical periods. Two methods for comparing cohorts are presented — age-matched, and age, period, and cohort effects — and examples of analyses are given using each.

In an article on measuring social health, the issue revisits the theoretical framework that has guided the development of NSHAP, the Interactive Biopsychosocial Model of health, which includes the concept of social health. The authors define indicators and measures of social health (e.g., sexuality, social networks), and present analyses that reveal age and gender differences, inspiring additional explorations. NSHAP’s newly introduced measure of resilience demonstrated good reliability and validity and was associated with health outcomes even after controlling for personality differences with which resilience is related. Having both detailed social network data, and interviews with both members of a couple, NSHAP’s rich relationship data is unique. Information about analyzing couples and networks across waves is provided.

New measures of self-reported skin tone and perceived discrimination enable examination of how race/ethnicity is connected to health and aging among ethnoracial minorities. One article reports that skin tone is a significant predictor of the frequency of perceived discrimination and stress among African American respondents. Another describes NSHAP’s enhanced elder mistreatment module; and to detect risk of neglect, researchers analyzed new questions to discern if respondents have been getting the help they want, and reliably, with the activities of daily living that they find difficult to perform on their own. And looking at childhood background measures in NSHAP, one group of authors found that reporting growing up in a happy family is a particularly important predictor of the amount of social support older adults receive from spouse, family, and friends.

Descriptions of the NSHAP Round 3 new measures coincide with sample analyses to make this compilation especially useful to researchers interested in the social determinants of the health and wellbeing among older adults.

NSHAP is funded by the National Institute on Aging and housed at the nonpartisan and objective research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, with Linda J. Waite, PhD, FGSA, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology, serving as principal investigator. This supplement was supported by funding for the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (R01AG021487; R01AG033903; R01AG043538; R01AG048511) and NORC at the University of Chicago, which was responsible for the data collection.


The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society.

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