Understanding the Health and Well-Being of Adults over 60

A PSC Brown Bag Seminar

Linda J. Waite (University of Chicago)

Monday, 12/1/2014.   ARCHIVED EVENT

Location: 6050 ISR Thompson St

More than 40 years ago George Engel called for a new biopsychosocial model of health, which has been implemented more in theory than in practice. Medicine generally uses a model of health focused on chronic diseases of organ systems, which fails to consider health and well-being more generally, ignores predisease processes, fails to consider behaviors that affect and reflect health, and pays little attention to emotional and psychological health, sensory function, and cognition. We build on Engel to develop a reconceptualization of health as reflecting biological and physiological functioning, chronic disease, health behaviors, mental health and cognition, sensory function, and physical function and frailty. We use multiple indicators of health on each of these dimensions of health from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project to paint a detailed picture of the well-being of older Americans. We also investigate transitions in health classes over a five year period, and describe the demographic and social characteristics of health classes. Our results point to the importance of behavior, the mind and the interaction of the individual with his environment as key indicators of health and well-being at older ages.


Linda J. Waite is Lucy Flower Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and Director of the Center on Aging (CoA) at NORC at the University of Chicago. Professor Waite is the principal investigator for the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), supported by a MERIT Award to Waite from the National Institute on Aging. NSHAP is a longitudinal study of older adults, examining mechanisms by which social factors (e.g., intimate relationships and social networks) affect and are affected by health. In 2012, Professor Waite received the Matilda White Riley Award from the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Research. She is past president of the Population Association of America immediate past Chair of the Committee on Population, National Research Council. Her current research focuses on social connections and aging at older ages, as well as a collaborative book project, entitled, Reconceptualizing Health.

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