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NHATS at a Glance

Begun in 2011, the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) fosters research to guide efforts to reduce disability, maximize health and independent functioning, and enhance quality of life at older ages. As the US population ages, NHATS will provide the basis for understanding trends in late-life functioning, how these differ for various population subgroups, and the economic and social consequences of aging and disability for individuals, families, and society.

NHATS gathers information on a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older. The sample is refreshed periodically so that researchers may study national-level disability trends as well as individual trajectories. Annual, in-person interviews collect detailed information on the disablement process and its consequences.

The NHATS interview is guided by a conceptual framework that recognizes physical and cognitive capacity is distinct from the environment in which activities take place. Among the specific content areas included are: the physical, social, technological and service environment, physical and cognitive capacity, use of assistive devices and rehabilitation, help received with daily activities (self-care, household, and medical), participation in valued activities, and wellbeing. A last month of life interview focuses on quality of end of life care. Periodically caregivers of NHATS respondents are interviewed in the supplemental National Study of Caregiving (NSOC). Linkages to Medicare records are also available.

Content was developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of demography, geriatric medicine, epidemiology, health services research, economics, and gerontology. NHATS is being led by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Michigan, with data collection by Westat, and support from the National Institute on Aging.

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