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Harmonization of Longitudinal Cross-National Surveys of Aging

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Jacqui Smith, Stephanie L. Brown, Philippa J. Clarke, Kenneth M. Langa, Dylan M. Smith, Peter A. Ubel, David Weir, Gwenith Fisher

We propose to utilize the outcomes of concerted post hoc (ex-post) efforts to compare existing data on well-being collected in the contexts of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) to develop a priori (ex-ante) harmonization strategies to facilitate future innovative comparative research on this topic. Our overall aim is to compare cross-national trends and correlates of well-being in populations aged 50-and-older using the extensive data available from these studies. Previously efforts at ex-post HRS-ELSA comparisons have focused on the role of socio-economic factors in health (Banks, Marmot, Oldfield, & Smith, 2006). This important pioneering research pointed to the scientific and policy value of exploring trends in health status observed in nationally representative surveys in the US and England because of the different demographic structures and social contexts of the aged populations in each country. Cross-national comparisons of well-being would complement and extend this initial work. Like physical health, measures of well-being are important components of life quality and successfull aging. However, before such HRS-ELSA analyses on well-being can be undertaken, a platform is needed to facilitate the exchange of data and information between researchers from each project. Preliminary analyses of well-being indicators suggest that, although the potential to conduct cross-national comparisons exist, several methodological issues need to be addressed. These include the possible confounding effects of measurment differences and the impact of sample composition and attrition. Ideally harmonization of measurement should occur prior to data collection if cross-national comparison is intended. To this end, we plan to use the opportunity provided by the HRS-ELSA exchanges and secondary analyses to develop new ways to assess well-being (for example, by combining time-use and self-report data). This will serve to optimize future cross-national comparisons not only between HRS and ELSA but also with countries in the SHARE network.

Funding Period: 04/01/2009 to 03/31/2012

Country of Focus: USA

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