This primary aim of this Pathway to Independence Award is to provide necessary training and research ex- perience to facilitate the PI's transition to an independent research career in the field of health and aging. The PI is a highly training sociologist and demographer seeking additional training in biology and psychology at the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, a preeminent research institute devoted to the study of aging. The PI will pursue a program of training and research that will add necessary knowledge of biological and psychological models of aging to the PI's current expertise in demographic health research. The objective of this award is to extend existing knowledge of how social environments `get under the skin' and influence health by elucidating the complex associations between the neighborhood environment and psy- chosocial factors and their effects on health across the life course. Understanding how experiences in the so- cial environment are translated into health risks, however, requires clarification of the biological and psychoso- cial processes that link social environments to health. Neighborhood-based social engagement (e.g. interac- tions with neighbors and participation in community organization) may represent a key, yet understudied, pathway through which neighborhoods influence older adult health. The proposed research examines the links among the neighborhood social and physical environment, so- cial engagement, and biological markers of multi-system physiological functioning with the objective of gaining new knowledge about the specific pathways through which the neighborhood environment influences health and functioning among residents, and in particular, older residents. The proposal is highly significant because communities play a vital role in shaping health and well-being, particularly among older adults who may be- come more dependent on the resources and amenities in their immediate neighborhood and have greater ex- posure and vulnerability to neighborhood hazards. Yet, the pathways linking neighborhoods to health among older adults are not well understood.
The aims of this project are to: 1) identify the psychosocial pathways link- ing neighborhoods to physiolgocial dysregulation;2) test for interactions between individual and neighborhood characteristics with respect to their effects on psychosocial functioning and physiological dysregulation;and 3) determine if neighborhood change predicts change in individual psychosocial functioning and physiological dy- sregulation. This project will advance understanding of the complex, multilevel determinants of the aging ex- perience. The research objectives will be investigated through a program of secondary data analysis with several ex- isting population-based data sets (Chicago Community Adult Health Study, Health and Retirement Study, and National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S.), all of which integrate information on neighborhood con- text, psychosocial factors, and biomarkers. A combination of generalized linear models and multilevel methods will be used to conduct the analyses outlined in the specific aims. The skills needed to understand how biopsy- chosocial processes link neighborhoods and social engagement to health, which are necessary for this re- search, will be obtained as a key component of the K99 mentoring plan. The candidate will draw on a broad range of resources and training opportunities throughout the University of Southern California Andrus Geron- tology Center and elsewhere to obtain the necessary skills to pursue a research career that integrates multi- level information on neighborhoods, psychosocial factors, and biological disease processes into existing re- search models in health and aging research that have traditionally focused entirely on individual-level factors. The R00 phase will allow the candidate the time needed to complete the research plan under the guidance of the candidate's K99 mentors, and to submit an R01 proposal to examine how the neighborhood environment and social relationships combine and interact to shape health trajectories over the life course.
Extending healthy, active years of life has become a top priority of the National Institute on Aging. The pro- posed research will provide new insights into the multilevel determinants of healthy aging among community- dwelling adults that can be used to inform: 1) future research on improving the health of the aging population; and 2) policies for designing age-friendly communities that promote independent, active, and engaged living. This research will also will contribute new information relevant to one of the goals of Healthy People 2010 (2020), creating social and physical environments that promote good health for all, and thus has public health significance beyond aging populations.