Recent Developments in Longitudinal Studies of Aging in the United States


We review recent developments in longitudinal studies of aging, focusing on the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Both studies are part of a trend toward biosocial surveys in which biological measurement is joined with traditional survey techniques, and a related trend toward greater harmonization across studies. Both studies have collected DNA samples and are working toward genotyping that would allow broadly based association studies. Increased attention to psychological measurement of personality and of cognitive ability using adaptive testing structures has also been shared across the studies. The HRS has expanded its economic measurement to longitudinal studies of consumption and to broader-based measurement of pension and Social Security wealth. It has added biomarkers of cardiovascular risk. The WLS has developed an integrated approach to the study of death and bereavement and an innovative use of high school yearbook photographs to capture information about health in early life of its participants.