Study Introduction: Malaysia Ageing and Retirement Survey (MARS)
Written by: Norma Mansor and Nurul Diyana Kamarulzaman
Published on: Feb 10, 2021
The Malaysia Ageing and Retirement Survey (MARS) is a nationwide panel study involving people aged 40 years and over in Malaysia. Given the importance of population aging and the lack of data related to it in Malaysia, MARS was initiated to fill this gap through a large-scale, nationally representative, longitudinal survey on aging, health, and retirement. The main goal of the study is to produce comprehensive micro-level data on various aspects of aging, health and retirement impacting the lives of middle aged and older persons. This will provide valuable input for scientific research, policy making and the formulation of a national framework for healthy and active aging towards strengthening social protection for Malaysia.
The initiation of MARS began with a series of consultations involving local and international experts as well as key people of leading international research including the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) in the United States, the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the Japanese Study on Aging and Retirement (JSTAR). MARS benefited much from these studies in terms of advice and input on the development of survey instrument and survey and data management system.
The baseline sample selection for this study was done by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) based on the Malaysia Population and Housing Census 2010. A multi-stage sampling procedure was adopted beginning with the stratification by urban and rural regions in each state followed by the selection of enumeration blocks (EBs) in each stratum, the selection of living quarters or households and the selection of members within the selected households. For each selected household, any member aged 40 or older who has lived in the household most of the time would be eligible to participate in the study. Should there be more than one eligible member, a maximum of three oldest eligible members would be selected as respondents.
The first wave of MARS was conducted from July 2018 to July 2019. This initial sample included 5,613 individuals from 3,324 selected households containing 6,672 eligible individuals. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) by trained field interviewers. The study components include demographics, family support, health, healthcare utilization, cognition, employment, income and consumption, housing, and assets. Physical measurements were also taken during the survey interview using standard protocol and procedures.
Since August 2019, findings from MARS have been presented at various seminars and working groups involving ministries, government agencies, researchers and local community groups at both the national and international level. MARS data have been used to represent Malaysia in the Baseline Report for the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021−2030 by the World Health Organization (WHO). In January 2021, SWRC had launched the Malaysia Ageing and Retirement Survey Wave 1 2018/2019: A Snapshot which presents a snapshot of the MARS findings on selected variables of interest based on the total sample and where applicable, across the subgroups of the sample, in particular age and sex. The report which is available for download here also includes details on the MARS study background and design.
MARS data files and documentation are available by request from SWRC, Universiti Malaya. The data is contained in a single file combining all components. Working with the Gateway to Global Aging Data team, MARS has released a beta version of the Harmonized MARS dataset and codebook. All harmonized data files and documentation are available for download from the Gateway to Global Aging website.
- Norma Mansor is the Director of the Social Wellbeing Research Centre, Universiti Malaya.
- Nurul Diyana Kamarulzaman is a Research Officer at the Social Wellbeing Research Center, Universiti Malaya.