The purpose of this project is to enhance the impact of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) by developing a rich contextual data resource with measures of the social and physical environment that will inform interventions designed to optimize health trajectories in older adults. Socioenvironmental contexts may play an important role in shaping opportunities for older adults to lead healthy, active, independent and engaged lives. However, lack of large, representative, prospective studies of older adults that include data on the residential environment presents a formidable challenge for advancing research in this area. The HRS is the largest ongoing study of aging in the U.S. and presents an ideal opportunity for adding data on the socioenvironmental context to an existing study of aging. In this application we propose to: (1) assemble a suite of contextual data sets derived from publicly available national data sources containing information on the social and physical environment that can be linked to the HRS using geographic identifiers;(2) construct measures representing six key theoretical dimensions of the socioenvironmental context - socioeconomic/demographic structure, psychosocial stressors, health care, physical hazards, amenities, and land use/built environment;and (3) create detailed documentation for use in future studies, describing the attributes of the secondary data, the procedures used to create the linked data files, and measurement construction to be distributed with the contextual data files. This proposal features many innovations which will result in a novel contextual data resource, including the creation of measures that have been constructed across multiple years and at different levels of spatial scale (e.g. census tract, ZIP code, local area buffer). The addition of contextual data to the HRS will provide researchers with a powerful database with which to analyze prospective effects of environmental conditions on health and aging, the effects of residential mobility on aging-related outcomes, and the ways environments change around older adults as they age in place. Through the process of producing a publicly available data set, this project will also establish th feasibility of adding contextual data to a large, national study of older Americans. With the addition of contextual data, the impact of the HRS would be significantly augmented, giving researchers, policymakers and planners, community-based organizations, and the public a major data resource that would facilitate significant advances in research on the role of communities in shaping the aging experience. There is currently no comparable data set on aging and the environment in the U.S.

Public Health Relevance

This project proposes to develop a rich contextual data resource with measures of the social and physical environment that can be linked to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative and ongoing longitudinal study of older Americans. The data will support future research endeavors that share the common goal of addressing fundamental questions about the role of conditions and experiences in the residential environment in shaping aging health trajectories. This will contribute to NIH's overarching goal of providing resources for aging research on extending healthy, active years of life.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Patmios, Georgeanne E
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University of Southern California
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Los Angeles
United States
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Ailshire, Jennifer A; Crimmins, Eileen M (2014) Fine particulate matter air pollution and cognitive function among older US adults. Am J Epidemiol 180:359-66