Aging of United State

Every 2 years, thousand of older Americans tell their stories. Quietly, compellingly, they answer questions about every aspect of their lives-how they are feeling, how they are interacting with family and others. They do this as participants in the US. Health and Retirement Study (HRS), one of the most innovative studies ever conducted to better understand the nature of health and wee-being in later life. The HRS’s purpose is to learn if individuals and families are preparing for the economic and health requirements of advancing age and the type of actions and interventions-at both the individual and societal levels – that can promote or threaten health and wealth in retirement. Now in its second decade, the HRS is the leading resource for data on the combined health and economic circumstances of Americans over age 50.

During each 2 year cycle of interviews, the HRS team surveys more than 20.000 people who represent the Nation’s diversity of economic conditions, racial and ethnic back grounds, health, marital histories and family compositions, occupations and employment histories, living arrangements, and other aspects of life. Since 1992, more than 270.000 people have given 200.000 hours of interviews.

Objectives and design of the HRS

The HRS collects data to help:

  • Explain the antecedents and consequences of retirement.
  • Examine the relationships among health, income, and wealth over time.
  • Examine life cycle patterns of wealth accumulation and consumption.
  • Monitor work disability.
  • Examine how the mix and distribution of economic, family, and program resources affect key outcomes, including retirement, “dissaving”, health declines, and institutionalization. 


The HRS Longitudinal Sample Design

Oldest Old, or Ahead, was fist administered in 1993 to a nationally representative sample of Americans age 70 and older (strictly speaking, born in 1923 or earlier). Again, in the case of married couples, interviewers were conducted with spouses. About 8.000 people were interviewed as part of the 1993 ahead survey. These individual were re-interviewed in 1995.

The original HRS and ahead surveys were integrated in 1998, and the consolidated project is now referred to as the Health and Retirement Study. The new group of survey participants (including spouses) were added in 1998. The fist group consists of people in the age group that falls between the original HRS and ahead sample. Born between 1924 and 1930 and raised during the Great Depression, these participants are called the Children of the Depression Age, or CODA cohort. The second group added in 1998 was the fist “refresher cohort” brought in to replenish the sample of people in their early 50s as the War baby cohort, consisting of people born between 1942 and 1947 and their same-age or younger spouses.

The past and projected evolution of the HRS sample, including surveys years for the different participant cohorts. In the future, the research team plans to supplement the sample with groups of younger people as they reach their 50s. For example, participants born between 1948 and 1953-the early years of the post-World War II baby boom – were added to the HRS sample in 2004. By continuing to “refresh” the sample, the HRS will provide along term source of data on the transition from middle age to the initial stages of retirement and beyond.

Unique Features Of The HRS


Among the HRS’s important contributions to the study aging and to social science research:

  1. The HRS offers the scientific community open access to in-depth longitudinal data about adults over age 50, enabling researchers to explore critical aging-related concerns.
  2. The study’s broad national representation allows it to look at the older population in general, as well as the great diversity and variability of aging.
  3. The HRs helps researchers to investigate both current issues and changes over time.
  4. The HRS permits researchers to probe the impacts of unexpected health events, such as a cancer diagnosis, heart attack, stroke, or the onset of chronic disease on other aspects of individuals’ lives.
  5. The HRS, along with other studies worldwide that were based on the its design, allows for comparisons of trends in aging and retirement worldwide.


The Allocation of HRS Interview Time By Road Topic

The HRS specifically focuses on:

  1. Economic Circumstances: Sources and amounts of income, the composition and amount of assets and entitlements to current and future benefits such as those provide through Social Security, Medicare, employer pension…
  2. Occupations and Employment: Occupation and employment information collected by the HRS covers job characteristics, job mobility, attitude toward retirement…
  3. Health and Health Care: The HRS collects information about chronic illness, functional ability, depression, and examines health related behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use and exercise.
  4. Cognition: The HRS is unique among large surveys in its use of direct measures of cognition, drawn from established clinical instruments.
  5. Living and Housing Arrangements: The survey explores the relationships between people’s living arrangements and the availability or use of long term care services such as nursing home residence, services offered to residents living in the other housing arrangements, and special housing features for people who are physically impaired.
  6. Demographics and Family Relationships: The HRS gathers standard demographic facts such as age, racial/ethnic background, education, material status and history and family composition.


The HRS: A Model For Other Countries

Many nations, particularly in Europe, are further along than the United States in population aging, and they have found the multidisciplinary, longitudinal nature of the HRS appealing as a way to obtain a holistic picture of health and retirement trends in their graying population.

The success of the HRS and ELSA has spawned a major international study that now tracks health and retirement trends in Europe. Share the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe – involves Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy and Greece. Approximately 130 researchers from the participating nations have been organized in to multidisciplinary country teams and cross nation working groups, assisted by a number of expert support and advisory teams.

Population aging is also becoming a major policy concern in developing countries. The HRS concept is being applied in the Mexican Health and Ageing Study (MHAS), the fist such effort in a developing country. The MHAS is a prospective panel study of Mexicans born prior to 1951. Its 2001 baseline survey was nationally representative of the older Mexican population and similar in design and content to the HRS. A second round of data collection was undertaken in 2003. In addition to the range of issues that can be considered using HRS data, the MHAS offers an opportunity to explore aging and health dynamics in the context of international migration.

The HRS and SHARE concepts have also been emulated in Eastern Asia. South Korea is already planning the second wave of the Korean longitudinal study on Aging, while planning for initial waves is well advanced in China, Thailand, Japan and initial planning for an Indian HRS has begun.