Center on Aging and Population Sciences

Major Research Areas

CAPS seeks to expand population-based research on aging within three major research themes:

1) Life course precursors of advantage and disadvantage at older ages

Disparities at older ages reflect current and earlier-life conditions that have profound effects on aging and health outcomes, shaping biological, psychological, social, and behavioral risks. A comprehensive model of aging that incorporates these exposures and experiences across the life course is critical to understanding different and intersecting trajectories and outcomes. Within this research theme, three specific topics of particular focus include trauma and stress exposures throughout life, the long reach of socioeconomic status, and cognitive health and cognitive decline.

2) Family demography, social engagement, and social isolation

A large body of research supports that social connection and isolation are associated with physical health and mortality, with growing evidence of a link between isolation and dementia risk. How intersecting biopsychosocial mechanisms underlie these associations and unfold over the life course remains to be explored. To address this, CAPS researchers work towards identifying predictors of population variation in family structures, social ties, and social isolation for older adults and individuals in underrepresented minority groups. Within this research theme, three specific topics of particular focus include family structure and caregiving, marriage and partnering across the life course, and social engagement, loneliness, and isolation.

3) Place, aging, and health

Place, encompassing location on numerous levels from residential space and neighborhoods to state, regional, institutional locations, impacts health and aging. Local policies and economic conditions impact individual health and mortality rates that are further exacerbated by race and ethnicity. Ecological contexts with different materials and social characteristics also contribute to health, including different access to resources, opportunities, etc. Within this theme, special topics of interest include implications of state and regional policies for health inequalities, residential contexts (neighborhood, home environments) and health, and Hispanic aging in the U.S. context. Differences in public policies at county and state levels and institutions can create regional disparities in health and mortality, with higher disability and early mortality rates in states with less assistive policies relative to states with broader safety nets.