Research and Funding

Division of Behavioral and Social Research

Featured Reports

  • The Reversibility Network, funded by the National Institute on Aging, held its fifth meeting on November 1-2, 2016 in Bethesda, MD. The meeting brought together researchers whose work covers the spectrum of development from infancy through late life to discuss the use of retrospective and prospective measures of early life adversity. The meeting included discussions of 1) associations between adversity and health outcomes in retrospectively and prospectively assessed cohorts; 2) improving identification in adulthood of cohorts identified prospectively in childhood; and 3) the relationship of early adversity to the course of illness and response to treatment: special problems for ascertainment. A meeting summary (PDF, 1.1MB) is available.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the Committee on Population to convene an expert meeting on September 14, 2016, to provide advice on the most pressing issues related to dementia trends and education and to generate new ideas for research that will contribute to the welfare of the United States. The meeting agenda included introductory remarks followed by invited presentations and discussions, which included important themes. A meeting summary (PDF, 308KB) is available.

  • On June 23, 2016, the Committee on Population (CPOP) convened in Washington, D.C. to consider health disparities across the life cycle. Sponsored by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institute of Health (NIH), the meeting offered a chance to elicit expert input about the implications on research priorities from recent findings documenting rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans. Invited speakers shared their views on the state of the science regarding the life course perspective, effects of inequality and social class, education, cohort, and race/ethnicity on health disparities, as well as needed data, analytical frameworks and future research. A meeting summary (PDF, 621K) is available. 

  • On June 9-10, 2016, the National Institute on Aging Division of Behavioral and Social Research held a workshop to discuss the potential promise of modifying facets of personality to promote well-being and healthier aging. Invited speakers included experts in personality and aging, behavioral treatment research, and behavioral interventions for healthy aging. The workshop was organized in four major sessions: 1) Personality and Healthy Aging; 2) The NIH Stage Model of Behavioral Intervention Development; 3) Targeted, Mechanism-Focused Stage I Behavioral intervention Development; and 4) Revisiting the Stage Model with Technology. Upon adjournment of the meeting, there was consensus among the meeting participants that the field is well-poised to develop and adapt interventions to modify facets of personality to promote health aging. An agenda (PDF, 125K), list of participants (PDF, 73K), and meeting summary (PDF, 153K) are available. 

  • On May 20, 2016, the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) convened an expert meeting identify promising new methodological approaches for advancing research on dyadic processes within family and interpersonal relationships that influence health. Presenters provided a brief overview of current and emerging methods in the relationship sciences. Subsequent discussion focused on: (1) behavioral and physiological measures that can characterize high-quality relationships and explain their associations with health outcomes; (2) gold standard methods for operationalizing quality, satisfaction, and other important aspects of dyadic relationships that should be operationalized; (3) current methodological challenges and possible solutions; (4) relationship processes that have not been, but should be, studied, within dyads and beyond; and (5) the most promising new tools for the study of dyadic relationship processes. A meeting summary (PDF, 254 KB) is available.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene an expert meeting on May 4, 2016, to discuss the value of using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and private health insurance claims as a research resource for NIA-funded studies. Research made possible by linkages to CMS data facilitates CMS purposes as well. Participants examined the role that CMS data can play in enhancing NIA behavioral and social research, the research opportunities that exist, and the limitations associated with these data. They also discussed examples of common and novel uses of CMS data, the different types of data available to researchers, as well as the feasibility of linkages to other data infrastructure studies. A meeting summary (PDF, 633K) is available. 

  • As part of a national priority to promote elder justice, a key focus of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, NIH is hosting a one-day workshop on understanding and preventing elder abuse and mistreatment. Elder abuse and mistreatment is a growing public health problem, and it has a devastating impact on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Despite growing awareness, the research field is still relatively new and there remain significant research gaps in detecting, preventing and intervening in elder abuse. Increased understanding of the origins of abuse, risk profiles and effective interventions may resonate across contexts of family violence, including elder abuse, child abuse and intimate partner violence. The purpose of this meeting is to focus on the application of lessons learned across fields, and common challenges and opportunities in elder abuse, child abuse, intimate partner violence and other related fields. An agenda (PDF, 622K), list of background resources (PDF, 111K), including reports from prior workshops, a list of participants (PDF, 397K), and a summary report (PDF, 271K), and video cast of the proceedings are available.

  • On October 23-24, 2015, the University of Michigan Bio Social Methods Collaborative, with the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research and the National Institute on Aging, held a meeting on the current state of mixed emotions research. Organizers sought to engage conference participants in discussions of open research questions, methodological concerns, and health and policy implications of mixed emotions research. The conference focused on theoretical and methodological issues as well as findings from research studies in a variety of contexts and over the life span. Topics included defining mixed emotions phenomena, simultaneous versus sequential experience of mixed emotions, the value of mixed emotions, and outstanding methodological challenges. A meeting summary (PDF, 478K) is available.

  • The Research Network on Later Life Interventions to Reverse Effects of Early Life Adversity held a meeting on October 6-7, 2015 in New York, NY. The workshop provided an introduction to the Network's goals and conceptual model, and included discussions of 1) mechanisms that may account for the association of early life adversity with adult health outcomes; 2) gene expression mechanisms linking early adversity with adult health; 3) behavioral and brain plasticity in child and adult development; and 4) valid assessment of early adversity in adults. A meeting summary (PDF, 122K) and an agenda (PDF, 29K) are available.

  • The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) convened a meeting of experts with the National Research Council’s Committee on Population (CPOP) to consider the state of the science and most promising future directions for the demography of aging research. Topics of discussion included: (1) the state of the science in understanding connections between social and environmental factors and mortality, morbidity, and life expectancy; (2) the demography of aging and the family tree; (3) emerging tools, techniques, and approaches to understanding the economics of the demography of aging; (4) lessons learned in CPOP studies of the demography of aging; and (5) the contribution of biodemography to understanding the demography of aging. A meeting summary (PDF, 578K) is available.

  • On June 11-12, 2015, the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences held a workshop to explore research strategies to enhance mechanistic understanding about social and behavioral influences on aging. To contextualize this discussion and illustrate a range of approaches to testing causal hypotheses, presenters reviewed what is known about three exemplar factors that research has demonstrated are associated with healthy aging: optimism, marital satisfaction, and educational attainment. Subsequent discussions focused on possible research designs that have potential to improve our causal models, including approaches that enable causal inference from longitudinal observational studies, molecular and quantitative genetic approaches, and experimental approaches. These approaches hold potential for illuminating pathways linking a broad range of social and behavioral factors to aging outcomes (beyond the examples discussed at this meeting), and their application may strengthen our mechanistic causal models. This summary report of the workshop discussions and the meeting agenda (PDF, 122K) are available.

  • On June 4, 2015, the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) convened a seminar sponsored by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to solicit expert input on the most promising strategies for advancing intervention development efforts to reduce social isolation and loneliness in mid- to late-life. The seminar included introductory remarks from NIA staff members, four invited presentations, and group discussion. An agenda (PDF, 80K) and meeting summary report (PDF, 615K) of the presentations and discussions are available.

  • The Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) convened an invitational meeting at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to: (1) better understand how the health research community uses death records and how the loss of access to the full Death Master File (DMF) affects health research; (2) better understand the issue from the perspective of the states as represented by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS); and (3) discuss promising ideas that could facilitate timely, comprehensive, cost-beneficial, and user-friendly means of research access to death records that are consistent with state interests and compliant with state and federal laws. A meeting summary (PDF, 556K) is available.

  • The National Research Council’s Committee on Population and the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive & Sensory Sciences convened a meeting of experts to consider the state of the field and new research directions of relevance to NIA on economic decision making for older populations. Discussions centered on the challenges of financial management in aging, the ability of aging individuals to meet these challenges, and the role of family, community, and others with respect to enabling aging individuals to manage their financial conditions, with a primary emphasis on the impact of poor economic decision making on the health of older persons.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Academies Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences to convene  an expert meeting to advise NIA on the most promising avenues for research to illuminate the pathways by which social, psychological, economic, and behavioral factors affect health in midlife and at older ages. Discussion focused on potential strategies for pooling and integrating existing longitudinal data, analytic techniques and intervention designs that permit causal analysis, exploring short-term processes as a window on long-term pathways, and the potential of genetically informed designs and approaches from the neurosciences to advance analysis of pathways. A meeting agenda (PDF, 52K) and summary report (PDF, 587K) are available.  Speaker biographies (PDF, 78K) are also available.

  • The third and final Network on Reversibility meeting was held on October 14th and 15th, 2013 in London, UK. This workshop was hosted by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with support from the National Institute on Aging.  Meeting participants concluded a two year survey of a range of human and animal studies that a) clarified the observed links between early pre and postnatal adversity and adult health; b) suggested both psychological and biological mechanisms that accounted for these links and c) indicated directions for adult internventions that might diminish the risk of early adversity. Meeting participants suggested a set of focused objectives for future research including a) more accurate estimates of risk of adult illness attributable to early adversity, b) animal and human pilot studies of interventions to reduce that risk, c) more basic research on neuroplasticity particuarly that directed at "reopening" critical periods of learning that typify early childhood and d) a special focus on the pregnancy and early infancy as an unusual opportunity for interventions that would reduce risk in both parent and child. An agenda, attendee list, and executive summary of the meeting is available here.

  • On May 22, 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH, in collaboration with the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), convened a meeting of eminent scientists from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics.  The presentations highlighted the potential for social and behavioral research to play a more influential role in the service of public policy, discuss strategies for bringing important research findings to the attention of policy makers, and identify lessons that can be learned from approaches undertaken in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team to leverage behavioral research findings. While NIA does not support policy research per se, findings from the basic behavioral and social science research that it does support are an important resource for informing policies that address the multiple causes of the U.S. health disadvantage. A meeting summary (PDF, 849K) and speaker biographies (MS Word, 2.0M) are now available.

  • There is increasing recognition that positive psychological functioning (PPF; including constructs such as optimism, positive emotions, and social connectedness) influences health above and beyond negative psychological functioning (including constructs such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness). Most research on the relationship between PPF and markers of health to date has focused on deteriorative biological processes and related health outcomes. Significantly less is known about restorative biological processes that may underlie health-relevant aspects of PPF. It seems possible that the biology associated with PPF is not merely the inverse of the processes associated with negative psychological functioning, particularly because the absence of negative psychological functioning does not necessarily indicate the presence of PPF. Despite greater exploration in recent years of the relationship between PPF and physical health, understanding of the underlying mechanisms is still limited.  To address this need, the Princeton University Center for Research on Experience and Wellbeing (CREW), an Edward R. Roybal Center for Translation Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences of Aging funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), hosted the Workshop on Positive Psychobiology in Miami, Florida, on March 12 and 13, 2013. A diverse group of experts gathered to review the status of the field, discuss current challenges, and identify future research priorities. A meeting summary report is available.

  • Links between early prenatal and postnatal adverse experiences and physical and mental health in late adulthood have become well established.  Animal and human studies suggest that some of these risk persistence mechanisms are malleable. In fact, preventive interventions well into adult life may blunt or even reverse their negative effect on trajectories of health in aging individuals. In February 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a diverse team of experts for a second meeting on the Network on Reversibility with the goals to develop a program of research that tests feasible preventive interventions that might counter or compensate for risk persistence mechanisms influenced or induced by early adversity and to marshal a transdisciplinary approach to estimate the likely impact of such a program. A summary report of the workshop is available here.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the Committee on National Statistics to convene an expert meeting to advise the NIA on approaches to identifying eligible participants aged 51 to 56 years old in 2016 for the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Traditional methods of screening households for the HRS have been expensive; identifying individuals from a narrow age band and recruiting statistically meaningful samples of Hispanic and black minorities are two key cost drivers during previous waves of screening. The expert meeting considered alternative screening methods that potentially could be less expensive without sacrificing a high quality, representative sample. A meeting summary is available here.

  • On September 10–11, 2012, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a diverse team of experts to launch its Network on Reversibility. The purpose of the Network is to define the scope of future research initiatives and to marshal a trans-disciplinary approach in the development of such programs. The members of the Network will combine their expertise to develop new ideas on how to test the hypothesis that harmful effects of early environmental adversity can be reversed in adulthood. Long-term goals include improvement of unfavorable health trajectories in mid-life and beyond. A summary of the meeting (PDF, 407K) is available.

  • Expert Meeting, June 18-19, 2012, The National Academies. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together select individuals with expertise in behavioral interventions, motivation theory, aging and life course development, and personality psychology to discuss how to apply knowledge and approaches from these fields to successful interventions to increase motivation in aging populations and improve aging outcomes. Discussions were designed to explore how a contemporary understanding of motivation can help us understand why some adults in mid-life or older adulthood develop economic and health-related problems associated with dependence, loneliness, and failures of self-control, and the interventions that may maximize autonomy, social engagement, and responsible care of self and others. Background paper (PDF, 196K), think pieces (PDF, 171K), a detailed agenda (PDF, 110K),  and the participant list and biographies (PDF, 92K) are available.

  • Issues of research integrity and the replication of research findings are central concerns in all disciplines. These issues in the social and behavioral sciences have been receiving a great deal of recent attention. Current discussions have focused on strengthening the role of replication in advancing scientific knowledge, and recognizing and correcting false-positive results. On June 4, 2012, a group of senior behavioral scientists and federal agency officials gathered to explore issues related to replication and reporting of false-positive results and to begin to formulate strategies for researchers, journal editors, and funding organizations that might remedy these problems. This meeting was sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science, the National Institute on Aging, and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. A summary (PDF, 384 KB) of the challenges and ideas that were identified by the group is available here.

  • On November 29–30, 2011, BSR convened a workshop to explore harmonization strategies for behavioral, social science, and genetic research. The workshop brought together harmonization experts, principal investigators on harmonization projects, and staff from BSR, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development. Workshop participants reviewed harmonization basics, existing harmonization efforts and issues, enabling tools and technologies, and the immediate needs of BSR, with a particular focus on phenotype harmonization and the informatics associated with cataloguing studies and data. Discussions from the workshop were intended to guide BSR as it defines the scope and priorities for building a unified harmonization strategy for promoting research and genetic studies within its portfolio.

  • The Workshop on the Use of Well-being Measures in Policy Analysis was held November 2nd and 3rd, 2011, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The event was co-sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Brookings Institution, and was co-chaired by Lisbeth Nielsen of the NIA and Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution. The purpose of the Workshop was to debate the advantages, challenges and pitfalls of utilizing subjective well-being metrics for policy analysis. Dialogues built on discussions at a prior NIA and ESRC-supported National Academy of Sciences workshop on the policy potential and implications of well-being metrics. At this meeting, consensus emerged that subjective wellbeing measures could be useful and appropriate for targeted populations and targeted policies. One goal of the current Workshop was to evaluate the potential of well-being metrics to assess targeted policies.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) is actively involved in the effort to fully understand and plan for the emerging costs of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  This teleconference featured presentations by Peter Neumann and Pei-Jung Lin (Tufts Medical Center) on “Costs and Cost-Effectiveness in Alzheimer’s Disease” based on modeling of Medicare claims data, and by Michael Hurd (RAND Corporation) on “The Costs of Dementia” based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS), followed by general discussion. In addition to NIA staff from both BSR and the Division of Neuroscience, participants included staff from the Alzheimer’s Association, study collaborators, and other invited commentators. The meeting report (PDF, 218K) is available here.

  • The goal of the conference call was to discuss gaps and themes that emerged at the NAS meeting held in September 2010, paying particular attention to how adding genetics to social surveys might be used to revise behavioral and social theory. Discussion topics that were considered of high importance were(1) leveraging longitudinal data via the HRS, (2) using neural and molecular pathways to inform the work that will be conducted on the HRS; and (3) understanding how smaller studies supported by NIA and other institutions can be leveraged to better understand broader survey data such as that of the HRS.

    A report from the teleconference is available here.

  • The second of two planned conferences convened by the Committee on Population (CPOP) at the National Academies of Science.  This conference, organized in conjunction with the Indian National Science Academy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and Science Council of Japan and supported by NIA, assembled leading scientists to present the latest trends in population aging in Asia, to discuss the potential for greater international collaboration and to engage senior Asian policymakers and planners in dialogue.  A NAS publication, Aging in Asia: Findings from New and Emerging Data Initiatives contains the peer-reviewed collection of papers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand that were presented at this conference hosted by the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi, and papers from the first conference, which was hosted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing in 2010. The papers in the volume highlight the contributions from new and emerging data initiatives in the region and cover subject areas such as economic growth, labor markets, and consumption; family roles and responsibilities; and labor markets and consumption. The full report is available from the National Academies Press website.


  • Recent research has verified that personality traits predict a range of outcomes in aging including health, longevity, economic security and general well-being. In the field of aging research one of these five, conscientiousness, stands out as a singularly striking predictor, often over many years, of important health and economic outcomes for aging individuals. Research to date has been of good quality and many important findings have been replicated. It is widely apparent that a new phase of research is now urgent: investigation that focuses on the mechanisms that account for these notable actuarial successes. This workshop explored five strategies for moving into this next phase of research, related to (1) the structure and developmental origins of conscientiousness, (2) contextual influences on the trait, (3) insights into mechanisms derived from experiments and interventions, (4) potential for analyses of existing longitudinal data to shed light on mechanisms, and (5) insights to be gained from alternative strategies for characterizing individual differences.  A summary from the meeting is available.

  • The first of two planned conferences convened by the Committee on Population (CPOP) at the National Academies of Science.  This conference, organized in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and Science Council of Japan and supported by NIA, assembled leading scientists to present the latest trends in population aging in Asia, to discuss the potential for greater international collaboration and to engage senior Asian policymakers and planners in dialogue.  A NAS publication, Aging in Asia: Findings from New and Emerging Data Initiatives contains the peer-reviewed collection of papers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand that were presented at this conference hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and papers from the second conference, which was hosted by the Indian National Science Academy in New Delhi. The papers in the volume highlight the contributions from new and emerging data initiatives in the region and cover subject areas such as economic growth, labor markets, and consumption; family roles and responsibilities; and labor markets and consumption. The full report is available from the National Academies Press website.

  • The U.S. National Institute on Aging, in collaboration with the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council commissioned the National Research Council Committee on National Statistics to convene two-day exploratory workshop on the application of subjective well-being measures to public policy. Leading academic and policy personnel from the US and UK explored the research needs and practical challenges surrounding the integration of measures of subjective well-being into the planning and evaluation of social and economic policies by local and national governments and agencies. This workshop is part of a larger effort of the NIA to support measurement advances and the integration of life-course themes into the science of well-being and to enhance the policy relevance of this field.  A meeting summary (PDF, 570 KB) is available here.

  • This one day exploratory workshop explored the use of economic phenotypes in large-scale research to promote an understanding of economic behavior. Invited participants included investigators studying economic behaviors from the perspectives of the cognitive, affective, and economic neurosciences, experimental economics, decision science, psychology, genetics, and population-based behavioral and social science surveys.  Participants addressed integrated approaches from psychology and neuroeconomics with survey research methods for measuring aging-relevant economic behaviors, traits and outcomes. Discussions focused on the development of a toolkit or battery of tests for measurement of economic phenotypes to enhance the links between laboratory and survey science and provide a foundation for genetic studies of fundamental economic behaviors. This activity complements the series of meetings examining how the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) can incorporate genetic approaches in analyses and what can be done with publicly available data. The background papers, meeting agenda and workshop report are available here.

  • The National Institute on Aging (NIA) commissioned the National Research Council Committee on Population to convene a two-day expert meeting to consider what data to collect on which traits and endophenotypes to optimize the HRS GWAS information as well as to explore ways in which the HRS can be harmonized with other types of large-scale studies to help uncover complex phenotypes attributable to genetics. Toward this end, more than 30 leaders in the fields of gerontology, economics, sociology, demography, genetics, population genetics, epidemiology, and psychology from throughout the United States and Europe convened in Washington, D.C., on September 23-24, 2010. A summary meeting report is now available (PDF, 754 K)

  • This expert meeting was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on National Statistics, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and was chaired by Connie Citro (CNSTAT) and Robert Wallace of the University of Iowa. The meeting was called to summarize the state-of-the-science in Elderly Mistreatment, identify gaps in knowledge, and elaborate on the types of work needed to advance the science since the National Research Council’s 2003 landmark publication Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation in an Aging America. Participants included the research community, NIA staff, and representatives from interested agencies including the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Administration on Aging (AOA); Department of Justice (DOJ); Federal Trade Commission; Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; General Accounting Office; and the American Bar Association.  The meeting report (PDF, 214K) is available.

  • An exploratory teleconference on Conscientiousness and Healthy Aging was held to consider new directions in research on the links between personality and important aging outcomes. Discussion focused on three themes: (1) the next important research challenges in understanding links between conscientiousness and health, (2) extensions to biology and genetics and newer measurement approaches to facilitate such extensions, and (3) translational extensions, with an eye to interventions – are we in a position to consider this with respect to aging-relevant outcomes in the psychological and physical health domains. Background statements developed to frame the discussion are available (PDF, 564 KB). As a result of this teleconference, a future workshop on this topic area is being planned.

  • This expert meeting was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on Population, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, and was chaired by Duncan Thomas of Duke University. The goal of the meeting was to foster better communication between researchers in the aging and disaster planning fields and to solicit suggestions for future research priorities in this area. Invited experts (in the fields of psychology, sociology, demography, simulation modeling, public policy, epidemiology and public health, and geriatrics) considered how the social and behavioral sciences might contribute research on the elderly in disasters, with particular emphases on settings and institutions, data challenges, and modeling. A meeting report is now available (PDF, 98 K).

  • The workshop on Advancing Integrative Psychological Research on Adaptive and Healthy Aging, was held at the Institute for Personality and Social Research (IPSR) at the University of California, Berkeley one day prior to the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Convention in San Francisco. The meeting was jointly organized by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) at the National Institute on Aging and IPSR. Presentations and panels focused on three major themes: (1) illustrating the use of innovative methodologies for advancing aging research, (2) identifying important research questions in each domain that are ripe for study now, and (3) laying the foundations for interdisciplinary collaborations. These three themes were explored in three separate sessions entitled: (1) Fundamental Social and Affective Processes in Aging, (2) Healthy Aging – Pathways and Mechanisms, and (3) Decision Making in Aging. Each of these sessions began with a talk by an expert providing the background and framing the major questions in the area. These talks were then followed by panels of 5-6 investigators who gave brief presentations on recent exciting findings or puzzling issues from their own work. A final report from the workshop is available (PDF, 294 KB).


  • On August 2, 2008, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) convened a discussion of research, data, and training needs in the area of sociology research relevant to the NIA. The gathering was timed to coincide with the 103rd annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston. This document summarizes points made during the presentations and discussion. There was no attempt to define a consensus. The agenda is included as appendix I.

  • The workshop on Opportunities for Advancing Behavioral and Social Research on Aging: An Introduction for Psychological Scientists was held at the 2008 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Annual Convention. The meeting was jointly organized by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, (John Cacioppo, Director, and 2007-08 President of APS) and the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging. The workshop brought new and established psychological scientists up to date on emerging directions in behavioral and social science research on aging and provided strategic guidance on incorporating aging-relevant questions into their scientific research programs. The morning session, Workshop on Entering into Aging Research,featured presentations on grant writing for aging research, neuroimaging and the aging mind, and opportunities for secondary analysis of archived social and behavioral data on aging, featuring the Health and Retirement Study and MIDUS. The afternoon session, Emerging Perspectives in Psychological Research on Aging, featured a series of panel discussions and Q & A periods. Many of the presentation slides are available through the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience webpage for personal education use only and therefore should not be distributed or reproduced. A review of the meeting can be found in the August 2008 APS Observer, Vol. 21, No. 7.

    Financial support was provided by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the National Institute on Aging.

  • The NIA held a workshop to determine how integration of lifespan development and genetics can clarify developmental mechanisms promoting selected domains of social and emotional competence in aging. Researchers representing the fields of economics, molecular biology, epigenetic science, and behavioral research presented heir work and engaged in discussions focused on stability and change, the interplay between gene and environment, and gene expression and epigenetic mechanisms. A meeting report is now available (PDF, 186 K)

  • An exploratory workshop focusing on theoretical and measurement issues relating to the concept of allostatic load, and more specifically on the question of assessing multiple and cumulative aspects of physiological aging and dysregulation. The goals of the workshop were to identify research needs and strategies for advancing the science in this area. The attached document (PDF, 182 KB) includes background statements from workshop participants, used to frame the discussion.

  • A exploratory workshop was held to consider what could be gained by adding genetic analyses to attempts to understand economic behavior. Economists, psychologists and neuroscientists discussed economic phenotypes, how these phenotypes could be measured, the level of analysis needed to assess individual differences within them, and how phenotypes might be influenced by aging. The workshop, chaired by David Laibson, David Reiss and Erica Spotts, fostered the exchange of ideas through formal presentations, invited commentary and general discussion. A final meeting report is also available (PDF, 190 KB).

  • An Ad Hoc Committee on Data Priorities, chaired by Lisa Berkman of Harvard University and James P. Smith of RAND, was asked to help NIA/BSR to assess likely needs for the data infrastructure for behavioral and social research on aging and recommend priorities for investment in data collection, archiving, and dissemination.

    We welcome your reactions to the Committee’s report or additional ideas. Please send them directly to John Haaga of NIA at, or if you prefer not to be identified, to Rose Li and Associates, who served as the committee’s secretariat:

    Please see the attached meeting report (PDF, 92 K).

  • To benefit from the possibility of exploiting cross-national differences to understand the effects of various policies, data collection efforts in various countries must be harmonized -- which means that conceptually comparable information be collected, and procedures (e.g., sampling and quality control) be synchronized to the extent possible. To this end, NIA convened a workshop to bring together data experts and the Principal Investigators of large national or cross-national datasets that are (or plan to be) harmonized with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. The group explored current issues in the measurement of key concepts of health, such as self-reporting of health status, and participated in a discussion of innovative methods for data collection and validity studies, including the use of vignettes and biomarkers, which have the potential to enhance comparability. There was a consensus on the value of survey harmonization, and the group emphasized the importance of regional collaboration in particular as a way to examine the impacts on health and retirement of policy, culture, and institutions. The workshop also identified a need for clearly articulated research priorities in aging and was intended to stimulate their development within various funding agencies, at both the national and international levels.

    A meeting report is now available (PDF, 88 K).

  • This 2-day exploratory workshop surveyed topics in social neuroscience of relevance to aging and addressed research and resource needs for advancing this field. Invited participants included leading researchers in social and personality psychology, genetics, neuroscience and neurobiology, biodemography, psychoneuroimmunology, and psychiatry who share an interest in social behaviors, and who have the breadth of knowledge regarding developmental and aging issues within their respective disciplines. Through targeted presentations and extended dialogue, participants addressed successful approaches, pitfalls, gaps in knowledge, next steps, and opportunities and needs for aging research in social neuroscience and how NIA and the scientific community could support development of this research area. Discussions focused both on research that takes a life-course perspective (i.e., the influence of social behaviors and environments in early life on late-life health) and on research addressing the role of social behaviors and environments of late life on the individual problems of older people.

    Social Neuroscience of Aging Background Papers (PDF, 496 K)

    Social Neuroscience of Aging Meeting Agenda (PDF, 37 K)

    Social Neuroscience of Aging Meeting Report (PDF, 501 K)

  • The topic of this conference was assessing the value of health. NIA intends to incorporate economic valuations of disease into its decisions about allocating research funding. The purpose of the conference was to strengthen research in the field by developing a future research agenda. Conference results would also be useful to the World Health Organization and relevant to national health accounts research. The conference was attended by 21 experts representing NIA, leading academic institutions, the private sector, and the national media. See conference summary.


  • As discussed in the National Research Council report Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa (2006), the impact of HIV/AIDS on adult mortality rates in Sub-Saharan Africa has reshaped the population structure and age distribution in most countries of this region, with important consequences for the elderly. A workshop in January 2007 considered research needs relevant to understanding the impact of HIV/AIDS on elders in Sub-Saharan Africa, and provided recommendations to NIA on a research agenda in this area.

  • This workshop was convened by the National Academies of Science, Committee on Population, and was chaired by Robert Wallace of the University of Iowa. The goal of the workshop was to consider specific, low-cost interventions drawing on the lessons of demography, public health, economics, community medicine, and other fields. The interdisciplinary approach is reflected in the invited presentations.

  • Since 2004, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Behavioral and Social Research Program has undertaken a research agenda to explore these factors, including a series of meetings, some held in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences, to assess the state of the science in judgment and decision-making research and to generate ideas for future research. These meetings have brought together psychologists and economists and have led to the recent release of a request for applications focused on neuroeconomics and aging. On August 16–17, 2006, the NIA Behavioral and Social Research Program held a work group meeting on decision making and aging. This work group, chaired by Dr. Jeff Elias, included researchers from similar fields but different approaches and focused more on the cognitive aspects of decision-making and aging.


  • This workshop explored issues surrounding data sharing plans for NIA-sponsored behavioral and social research studies that collect human specimens (DNA and/or biologic data). Workshop participants considered the potential for deductive disclosure and risks to confidentiality and privacy resulting from the merging of biologic and genetic data with complex, deeply described phenotypes in social and behavioral research studies. The workshop presentations and discussions were intended to inform the development of NIA/BSR data sharing guidelines in this area.

  • The NIA convened an exploratory workshop to share ideas about neuroeconomics and aging around a set of defined workshop goals. Presentations from experts in aging research in areas of social, cognitive, and personality psychology; cognitive and affective neuroscience; decision-making; and health and retirement economics framed the discusion of how the neuroeconomics perspective can be applied most fruitfully to issues of relevance to aging. This workshop built on themes developed in two NIA teleconferences on Neuroeconomics of Aging held in August 2005. PDFs of teleconference participants' prepared statements of research opportunities in neuroeconomics of aging, and summaries of the August 12, 2005 and August 26, 2005 teleconferences are available below.  A copy of the NIA Funded Grants on Neuroeconomics of Aging is also available.

    Neuroeconomics of Aging Workshop Meeting Report (PDF, 147 K)

    Teleconference participants' prepared statements of research opportunities in neuroeconomics of aging (PDF, 132 K)

    Summary of the August 12, 2005 Meeting (PDF, 34 K)

    Summary of the August 26, 2005 Meeting (PDF, 31 K)

    NIA Funded Grants on Neuroeconomics of Aging (Word, 66 K)

  • The NIA worked with the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Population to hold two expert meetings to discuss the National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS) and to consider future options for the survey. The first meeting was held on October 7, 2005. A follow-up meeting was held on Tuesday, February 14, 2006, which addressed policy and research uses of a continued NLTCS in more detail, and provided alternative options for scientific aims and survey designs. In addition to the workshop summary, NIA has made available the papers commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences (which were discussed at the February 14 meeting):

    • Connor, Erosheva, Fienberg & White, Towards a Restructuring of the National Long-Term Care Survey: A Longitudinal Perspective
    • Freedman & Schoeni, Disability, Long-term Care, and Rehabilitation: Emerging Questions and Data Needs
    • Doty & Marton, How the National Long-Term Care Survey Can Address Policymakers’ Disability and Long-Term Care Questions
    • Kinosian,The Department of Veterans Affairs Long Term Care Planning Model and the National Long-Term Care Survey
  • The goal of the health accounts project is to produce a new set of National Health Accounts which will explicitly measure health in addition to medical spending. To relate health outcomes to costs, the accounts will decompose both health and medical spending by particular diseases. Such accounts will allow researchers to ask such questions as: (1) How has the population's health changed over time? (2) To the extent health has improved, what accounts for this change? (3) What is the productivity of medical spending? (4) What changes in the medical system would increase the value of the system as a whole? A summary, agenda, and list of participants is available (PDF, 53K)


  • This meeting was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Behavior and Development within the Division of Behavioral and Social Science at the National Academies of Science, in conjunction with BSR/NIA. Topics discussed included the neural basis of decision-making, the design of health decision aids, the role of affect and emotion in decision-making, the effects of age and social context on decision-making, as well as aging and decision-making competence. The meeting was exploratory and served as a guide to help develop directions for future NIA research in this area.

  • The National Academy of Sciences Committee on Population hosted an NIA meeting of experts to discuss the National Long-Term Care Survey (NLTCS) to consider future options for the survey. There was general support for continuing to address long-term care and disability questions from both academic and policy quarters. However, the discussion raised a number of issues for further consideration, including the advisability of collecting biomarkers and associated implementation strategies, increasing the periodicity, collecting more detailed data on the living arrangements of older adults with chronic disability, collecting information to understand the environmental components of disability separate from the functional components, and adding to the screener questions to collect more information about individuals without chronic disability (frequently called screen-outs) in order to better assess incidence. The meeting also raised the visibility of the contributions of the NLTCS in the policy arena. A summary, agenda, and list of participants is available (PDF, 120K). A follow-up expert meeting was held on February 14, 2006. A summary, agenda, and list of participants is available (PDF, 86K). 

  • The NIA sponsored a meeting to help identify the most promising research opportunities related to macroeconomics and aging. Participants reviewed population aging in a global context, the size of the 60 and 80 populations, the health of the elderly, and variations across countries. The meeting determined that links between population aging and macroeconomics are mediated by the institutional context (retirement policy and pension and health care systems) and the economic context (degree of integration into regional and global economies). Issues for theoretical and empirical research included: (1) Demographic forecasting; (2) Savings, investment, and finance; (3) Labor, human capital, and migration; (4) Changes in sectoral structure; (5) Public and private financing of pensions and healthcare; and (6) Economic growth. A summary, agenda, and list of participants is attached (PDF, 69K).

  • The NIA and NICHD sponsored a meeting to bring together grantees of the Intergenerational Family Resource Allocation RFA to present projects, discuss methodological and data collection issues, and create an interdisciplinary network of researchers doing work on intergenerational resource allocation. Other goals were to bring together researchers doing work related to children with those doing work in the aging field; to familiarize economists with relevant work in child development and aging; and to ensure that the two major funding agencies in intergenerational resource allocation were "on the same page" in terms of topics of interest.


  • The NIA sponsored a meeting focused on interdisciplinary work aimed at developing new, innovative approaches to policy questions. Based on the organizers' belief that a natural alliance exists between social psychologists and behavioral economists, the meeting concluded that top-notch scientists in these fields collaborate on developing interventions useful for a variety of health applications of interest to BSR/NIA.

  • The NIA gathered eminent researchers on September 28th to discuss with journalists, “How can we prepare to meet the challenges of an aging population?” According to this NIA-supported group of leading social, behavioral, and economic scientists, the answers would come from creative thinking and new approaches to some of today’s most difficult questions, such as the rise in health expenditures and major gaps in personal savings for retirement.

  • The purpose of this conference was to examine which factors appear to explain mortality reductions over time as well as cross-sectionally, both within and between countries. Another purpose was to attempt to resolve differences in the existing theories, including considering whether there might exist a unified framework to characterize mortality changes and differentials. The meeting was largely informal and there was no presentation of papers. Directions for future work included extending work beyond industrialized countries, understanding differences in behavior, understanding the long-term impacts of nutrition and other inputs early in life and across generations, and reconciling trends and cross-section results.


  • There has been a noticeable trend in the growing complexity of decisions being faced in old age, e.g., pensions and benefit issues, portfolio investment decisions, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance options. BSR convened a small working group to share ideas in the area of decision making and aging. The presentations highlighted the importance of affect and motivation on judgments, probability perception, and decision-making. Age differences in affective/experiential and deliberative processes had important theoretical implications for both theory and application. Some of the underlying themes of the discussion were: the need for greater cross-disciplinary understanding; the need to identify common problems of interest; the need for better models; and, the need for better cognitive data.

  • The purpose of this workshop was to exchange information to faciliate coordination, collaboration, and communcation between behavioral and social science researchers (funded by the NIA) and those who used data originating from CMS (and other agency staff) to identify common issues. The grantee presentations exemplified the many uses of Medicare data, including the study of performance and productivity of hospitals, long-term care and hospice facilities, and medical care and treatments; variations in end-of-life care; cohort and time trends in Medicare expenditures; effects of physician specialization and experience on costs and outcomes of hospital care; and, health and technology trends and their consequences for Medicare.

  • Hosted by the Social Sciences Research Council, the objective of this meeting was to explore the “successes” (advances, breakthroughs, etc.) and “failures” (weaknesses, shortcomings, etc.) of the social and behavioral sciences in the field of aging in the last 30 years. The focus was on discussions of where, when, and why social and behavioral science advances have occurred in the area of aging. One of the summary points from these discussions was that scientific “successes” should not be thought of just in terms of theoretical breakthroughs in scientific paradigms, but also in terms of material advances to scientific practices. Newer forms of longitudinal data collection and analysis have expanded not only the descriptive, but also the predictive capacity of social sciences in various areas, including aging.

  • This symposium considered the best methods for training. Questions included: Is training best done within the context in which it will be used (e.g., perceptual speed, memory, exercise, technology use)? Is multiple system training the best method, and how do we determine what systems are affected? What are the physiological correlates of training and transfer of training? What is the impact of social engagement on cognition? How should we define successful training? How long do training effects have to last to be successful? Who are the best candidates for cognitive training and why?

  • NBER had an ongoing project on the foundations of disability decline, what could be done to extend and accelerate future improvements in functional ability, and how the benefits of disability decline could be evaluated in economic terms. A group of economists, demographers, epidemiologists, and physicians examined the causes and characteristics of past disability trends to identify the core foundations of disability decline, and moved towards improving functional ability in the future. Four research strategies have been identified: 1) Characterizing disability decline; 2) Pathways to disability; 3) Health conditions that lead to disability; and 4) Economic and labor market implications of disability decline.

  • National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) hosted a one-day workshop on the NLMS and the LEHD datasets that are underutilized by grantees. The objective of this partially-sponsored BSR workshop was to introduce these datasets to researchers from NIA’s 11 Demography Centers to encourage using these datasets. The workshop provided participants the opportunity to learn what the new data sources provided, how they could be obtained, and what issues these datasets could address. More information about the datasets could be found in the links below.

  • BSR organized a one-day meeting on effective uses of physical performance measures in population-based studies (as opposed to the self-reported measures of disability which have historically been used). This meeting reviewed existing performance protocols and discussed several important issues relating to use of performance measures in population-based studies. BSR developed a consensus document that outlined the various physical performance protocols available for use in various studies of aging. The goal was to develop a reference manual useful to researchers interested in using such performance protocols in their studies.

  • This one-day conference, sponsored by the Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences (CBRSS) at Harvard University and the NIA, convened a multidisciplinary group of social scientists to explore the potential for small, inexpensive, and noncoercive psychological and sociological interventions to influence human behavior in a range of policy settings. Changing human behavior, even for someone's own good, can be a huge undertaking. This conference featured research from the fields of economics, social psychology, and public health. The purpose was to shed light on the particular mechanisms and conditions under which simple psychologically-styled methods of changing behavior could provide easier and more effective ways of aligning good intentions with actions.

  • This workshop explored issues related to incorporating environmental factors from the behavioral and social sciences into genetically informative studies of aging. Development of this area was critical to understanding central issues surrounding gene expression, including gene-environment interactions and covariation and gene expression (i.e., how it is affected by social contexts and behaviors). A special issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological and Social Sciences (Vol. 60B, March 2005) was based on the presentations.

  • Workshop participants provided expertise across a wide range of fields: numerical cognition, quantitative and document literacy, mathematics, judgment and decision-making, neuropsychology, and behavioral economics. The specific topics covered at the workshop included:

    • age-related changes in numerical processing strategies;
    • proportional and probabilistic reasoning processes;
    • estimation skills, investment, and risk-taking behaviors; and,
    • financial abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.