Research

Affiliations

Longitudinal & Survey Research

HRS Life History Project

Project Team: Jacqui Smith (PI), Mary Beth Ofstedal, Robert Willis, William Chopik

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) includes birth cohorts who participated in the major demographic, economic and social transformation of the American people over much of the 20th century beginning with the AHEAD cohort born before 1923 through the late-Boomers born in 1960-65 who will enter HRS in 2016. These cohorts lived through the Great Depression and the Great Recession and all the good and bad times in between. They participated in World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They are the parents and the children of the Post-WWII Baby Boom. The women are the grandmothers and mothers of the post-boom women whose fertility began to decline dramatically in the 1960s; who experienced a doubling of the divorce rate within a decade in the 1970s; a rise in the fraction of their births that occurred outside marriage; an increasing female labor force participation rate and investment in market human capital; and entry into previously male-dominated professions.  The HRS cohorts also participated in the major migrations from South to North, from East to West, from rural to urban areas, and from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt that transformed the geographic distribution of the U.S. population. This project uses these life history data to study the long-term influences of early- and mid-life biological, socioeconomic, health, psychosocial, and environmental factors on outcomes later in life.

Historical Contexts of the Lives of HRS Cohorts

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Extending the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) to the Longitudinal Study of American Life (LSAL)

Project team: Jon Miller (PI 2014-2017), Jacqui Smith (PI 2017-2019), Brady West

LSAY was designed initially to provide a uniquely rich and comprehensive longitudinal dataset to track the outcomes of school education and achievement, especially in math and science. The original sample was a stratified probability sample of 7th and 10th grade students in 104 public schools across the United States in 1987 and included 5,945 students (born in 1972-1975). In 2006, with NSF funds, the original panel was re-contacted (98% were traced). Since 2007, the LSAY collects annual updates of education, health, marital status, family status, military service, Internet use as well as health and scientific literacy.  The current young adult cohorts of the LSAY are mid-life adults (age 38 to 41) and two-thirds have minor children at home. This longitudinal study provides an unparalleled look at Generation X.

All data collected up to 2011 and the current LSAY User Manual are available through the ICPSR. Questionnaire and the User manual are also online at www.lsay.org).

The current project funded by NIA (R01 AG049624) will collect five additional annual surveys (2014-2019) and gradually extend the protocol to include HRS measures of cognition, health, and financial status with a view to harmonizing with HRS.

LongROAD Project : Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers http://longroadstudy.org

This is a collaborative project funded by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that will collect data from about 3000 older drivers, their vehicles, and driving behavior  in five US states from 2015 to 2019:

Project team:

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Central Questions

  • What are the protective and risk factors of safe driving in older drivers?
  • What medications are most strongly associated with driving performance?
  • How do people self-regulate their driving behaviors to deal with physical and cognitive changes?
  • What determines driving cessation?
  • How does driving cessation impact health and well-being?
  • Drivers use, acceptance, and understanding of in-vehicle advanced technologies?
Well-being and Retirement Activities Project (WRAP)

The Well-being and Retirement Activities Project (WRAP) builds on our previous research where we adapted the Day reconstruction method for population studies of older adults. This qualitative study was designed to explore how individuals structure their day, the mixture of their emotions experienced during the day, and the differences in these processes following the transitions into early and established retirement.

WRAP consisted of 4 focus groups for recent retirees and 4 focus groups for established focus groups.  The project had two aims: 1) to explore differences in how individuals structure, organize, and make decisions about their day before, following, and in established retirement, and 2) to gain further understanding of the mixture of emotions that accompany activities during the day and differences in these mixtures before, following, and in established retirement.

A total of 79 individuals (age range = 55 – 75) were recruited from around the city of Ann Arbor and surrounding district. For many participants, the transition from work to retirement represented a discontinuity in daily routine. Recent retirees reported more time to do similar pastime—which translated to everything being more enjoyable.  Established retirees had developed new interests, and reported that health constraints made day to day activities a bit more negative (especially chores).

Motivations and Interests During Activities Yesterday (MI DAY)

The purpose of the MI DAY study was to build on the findings from the focus group to examine how the motivations for doing activities yesterday conditioned the emotional experiences during those activities. We recruited 121 participants in the state of Michigan (Mage = 63.48, SD = 9.64; 65% in good or excellent health; 75% women; 96% with at least some college) to complete a web survey about the activities they did yesterday, their motivations for doing those activities feelings and appraisals during and following those activities.  Participants were also asked about reasons for not doing other activities (e.g. didn’t have time, too tired).

We found mixtures of positive and negative emotions to be common across all activities, and especially when a participant felt preoccupied during the activity. Mixtures in participants’ reported energy levels following activities were also found. Some reported feeling both exhausted and revived following an activity.

In this study we also inquired further on retired and non-retired participants’ thoughts about how retirees spend their time.  Working and retired individuals differed in their expectations of how much retired persons volunteer and socialize, as well as the reasons that retired person watch television and volunteer.

Our analysis of these data will continue with a close examination of the central interests (i.e. serious leisure, a meaningful hobby that elicits both pleasure and frustration) in participants’ lives, and how the experiences during yesterday’s activities (we expect greater tolerance for the negative) vary when the activity is relevant to a central interest.

Individual Projects on Wellbeing

Focus Group Study: Retirees

 

This focus group study (linked to the Well-Being R01) study was coordinated by Dr Shannon Mejia, a new postdoctoral fellow in the project, together with a new GSRA in the team, Hannah Giasson, and it was conducted with the professional assistance of the Survey Research Operations (SRO) unit of ISR.  Our overall aim was to address open questions about the sensitivity of the activities and feelings in the HRS 2012 short day reconstruction measure to changes in daily routines and experiences associated with the transition from work to retirement. Eight focus groups, each including eight to 12 people, were conducted in March and early April, 2015 (N = 79, age range 55-75). For many older adults, the transition from work to retirement represents a discontinuity in daily routine. The literature suggests that it generally takes a few years to adjust and develop a new lifestyle. For this reason, we designed the study to collect data about the experiences of recent retirees (four groups of participants who had retired within the last 2-years) and more established retirees (four groups including people retired for 5+ years).The moderator guided discussion to address: a) the process of adjusting to being retired (things missed about work, new activities and interests); and b) how/if the transition to retirement contributed to changes in the structuring (organization, planning) of activities in a week and the types of constraints on selection and time spent on activities (e.g., time, partners or other people). We were also interested in participants’ appraisals of specific affect and mixtures of emotions associated with activities that may have changed pre-post retirement. Each session was digitally recorded, and observers noted the specific times of topic changes and important comments. In addition to the qualitative discussion material, participants in the focus groups also completed the HRS day reconstruction measure, a short personality measure, and provided information about their previous occupation, and partner working status (if in a partnered household).

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