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

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; tests and self-reports of physical and cognitive capacity; use of assistive devices and rehabilitation services; help received with daily activities (self-care, household, and medical); participation in valued activities; and wellbeing. Other topics focus on chronic conditions, symptoms, sensory impairments, transportation, subjective and economic wellbeing, and demographic factors. A last month of life interview focuses on quality of end of life care. Linkages to Medicare records are also available.

Periodically caregivers of NHATS participants are interviewed in the supplemental National Study of Caregiving (NSOC). Interviews are conducted with family and unpaid helpers to NHATS participants who report receiving assistance with self-care, mobility, medical or household activities. The interview includes questions on caregiving activities, duration and intensity of care, effects on caregivers’ wellbeing and participation, along with demographic factors.

NHATS and NSOC are being led by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, with data collection by Westat. Support for NHATS and NSOC is provided by the National Institute on Aging.


NHATS Principal Investigators:

Jennifer Schrack, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Epidemiology

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Vicki Freedman, PhD

Research Professor

Institute for Social Research

University of Michigan

NSOC Principal Investigators:

Vicki Freedman, PhD

Research Professor

Institute for Social Research

University of Michigan

Jennifer Wolff, PhD


Department of Health Policy and Management

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

NHATS Co-Investigators

Former Leadership

Advisory Boards

NHATS Steering Committee

The steering committee provides advice on scientific issues related to NHATS’ current study aims.

NHATS Data Monitoring Committee

The Data Monitoring Committee reviews the study’s progress and provides advice regarding additions or changes to NHATS.

Former Advisors

NHATS has benefited from guidance from additional members of the research community in past years.


National Institute on Aging

NHATS and NSOC are sponsored by the Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR), a division of the National Institute on Aging (NIA). BSR supports basic social and behavioral research and research training on the processes of aging at both the individual and societal level.

Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

Earlier rounds of NSOC (I and II) were sponsored by The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) advises the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on policy development in health, disability, human services, data, and science, and provides advice and analysis on economic policy.