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The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has received $195 million in federal funding to continue its influential Health and Retirement Study.

According to the university’s announcement, the new funding is the largest research grant in UM’s history and will extend the Health And Retirement Study through 2029. Funding is provided by the National Institute on Aging with co-funding from the Social Security Administration.

The project, which began in 1990, Study on health and retirement is a longitudinal study that surveys a representative sample of approximately 20,000 middle-aged and older Americans. Through a combination of biological, psychological, and social information collected through personal, in-depth interviews, the HRS provides multidisciplinary data used by researchers worldwide to answer questions about the challenges and opportunities of aging. Some of the participants have been in the study for up to 30 years.

The interviews cover a wide range of topics, including physical and mental health self-reports, health care use and payment, labor force participation, economic status, family structure, decision-making, and other topics. A video with an overview of the study can be viewed here; a data book summarizing the study’s key findings can be read here.

“We are grateful to the NIA for its scientific commitment and financial support of this collaborative agreement,” said David Weir, HRS director and research professor at ISR, in the university’s press release. “Together, we have ensured that the study remains relevant to the rapidly evolving science of aging, maintained a diverse and nationally representative sample of participants, and, with our commitment to data sharing, steadily increased the number of users and publications supported by the HRS.”

According to Kenneth Langa, co-director of HRS and Cyrus Sturgis Research Professor of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine, HRS will expand its focus to include several high-priority scientific topics.

“Alzheimer’s and dementia will affect an increasing number of older people in the coming decades, with enormous implications for family caregivers and the costs of government support programs,” Langa said. “Our expanded data collection on cognitive abilities and disability in later life will be particularly valuable in better understanding and tracking the increasing impact of dementia now and in the future, including the potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dementia risk.”

The study’s unique approach has led to similar projects being developed around the world. According to the university’s press release, since the HRS was launched in 1990, more than 40 countries have launched studies modeled on the HRS. More than 7,000 journal articles, books and dissertations have been published using information from the study.

“I am so proud of the team at the Institute for Social Research and of the record-breaking grant from the National Institute on Aging,” added Santa J. Ono, president of the University of Michigan. “But I am even prouder of the impact the Institute has had since its founding and the research it continues to produce. It goes beyond academic disciplines, opens our eyes and points to solutions to the great challenges of our time.”

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