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.