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Rehabilitation Dataset Directory: Dataset Profile

Dataset: Health and Retirement Study (HRS)

Basic Information
Dataset full name: Health and Retirement Study
Dataset acronym HRS
Summary The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a nationally representative longitudinal panel survey conducted biennially. The study follows a cohort(s) of adults age 50 years or older in the United States. The purpose of the HRS is to understand the health shift in older adults and demographic changes in labor force participation at the end of their service. It provides detailed information on demographic characteristics, income, work, assets, housing, pension plans, health insurance, disability, physical health and functioning, cognitive functioning, and health care expenditures. The original study began in 1992 and follows up on the respondent and their spouse or partner every two years through in-depth interviews. A new cohort is added to the sample every six years. In 1998 original HRS was merged with Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest-Old (AHEAD, born before 1923). In 1998 the HRS also included a Children of the Depression cohort (CODA, born 1923-1930) and a War Baby cohort (WB, born 1942-1947). In 2004 an Early Baby Boomer cohort (EBB, born 1948-1953) was added, and in 2010 a Mid Boomers cohort (MB, born 1954-1959).
Key Terms Aging, Longitudinal, Health, Income, Retirement, Disability, Housing, Pension, Family characteristics
Study Design Longitudinal
Data Type(s) Survey
Sponsoring Agency/Entity National Institutes of Health (NIH): National Institute on Aging (NIA) University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research
Health conditions/Disability measures
Health condition(s) Diabetes, Cancer, Lung disease, Coronary heart disease, Congestive heart failure, Stroke, Arthritis, Musculo-skeletal pain, Psychiatric problems, Self-assessed health status,
Disability Measures ADLs, IADLs, Assistance/Special equipment required/used, Cognitive functioning (memory , word recognition, backwards count, word recall, vocabulary, Mini‐Mental State Exam), Communication problems A subsample in 2004 & 2006 received standardized assessments of physical functioning (lung function, grip strength, balance, walking speed)
Measures/outcomes of interest
Topics Income, Education, Internet use, Housing, Employment, Employer accommodations, Assets, Pension plans, Health insurance, Health care expenditures, Assistive Technology use
Sample Population Nationally representative sample of adults over the age of 50
Sample Size/Notes Initial (Wave 1) number of respondents in sample by cohort: 12,652 - HRS: Original R born 1931-1941 8,222 - AHEAD: Original R born in 1923 or earlier 2,320 - CODA (Children of Depression): Original R born 1924-1930 2,529 - WB (War Baby): Original R born 1942-1947 3,330 - EBB (Early Boomers): Original R born 1948-1953
Unit of Observation Individual
Geographic Coverage United States
Geographic specificity National
Data Collection
Data Collection Mode Primarily personal interview and phone surveys. Restricted data linkages available to the Employer Pension Study, National Death Index, Social Security Administration, and Medicare files.
Years Collected 1992-ongoing
Data Collection Frequency Biennial
Strengths and limitations
Strengths Nationally-representative, multi-stage area probability sample. Excellent re-interview response rates of 90% or higher. Wide range of questions asked including: functional status, disability, economic factors, retirement, health services utilization, social security disability benefits, veterans’ benefits and workers’ compensation. The majority (80%) of HRS participants allow Medicare record based disease history data to be linked to their HRS data. **NOTE Medicare data access requires a Data Use Agreement (DUA) from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)** Restricted data linkages include: biometric and biological information to the online genetics database of the National Institutes of Health (12,500 participants) , National Death Index, Social Security benefit and Medicare files.
Limitations Information on chronic disease and health-care utilization are based on self-reports. Proxy responses used in about 20% of the 2008 core interviews for the oldest cohort (born 18890-1923) . Some question wording has been altered over time making some comparisons problematic. Questionnaire skip patterns and survey wave design can be difficult to follow.
Data details
Primary Website
Data Access
Data Access Requirements Data Use agreement, No cost
Summary Tables/reports Servais, Marita A. Overview of HRS Public Data Files for Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analysis (2010) Servais, Marita A. Overview of HRS Public Data Files for Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analysis (2010)
Dataset components (where applicable) Biennial Datasets
Longitudinal Datasets
Off-Year Studies
Restricted data files
Selected papers
Technical Techical Documentation
Other Papers Christine T. Cigolle, Kenneth M. Langa, Mohammed U. Kabeto, Zhiyi Tian, Caroline S. Blaum. Geriatric Conditions and Disability: The Health and Retirement Study. Annals of Internal Medicine 2007. 147 (3) 156-164.

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The Rehabilitation Research Cross-dataset Variable Catalog has been developed through the Center for Large Data Research & Data Sharing in Rehabilitation (CLDR). The Center for Large Data Research and Data Sharing in Rehabilitation involves a consortium of investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Cornell University's Yang Tan Institute (YTI), and the University of Michigan. The CLDR is funded by NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. (P2CHD065702).

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