Home » Surveys at a Glance » HRS: Study Overview
HRS: Study Overview
HRS is a longitudinal study of people aged 51 and older and their partners, living in private households in the United States of America. Its main goal is to provide a data resource that allows researchers to examine the aging process and explore the impacts of national-level social and policy changes on individuals. The survey elicits information about demographics, health, cognition, family structure, housing, job status and history, health care use and costs, assets, and income.
The HRS sample is a nationally representative sample of the population aged 51 years and older, living in private households in the United States. The initial HRS sample of individuals born between 1931 and 1941 (then aged 51 to 61) was recruited in 1992 using a multistage probability sampling of all households in the contiguous United States. Another sample, Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), of individuals born between 1914 and 1923 (then aged 70 to 79) was recruited in 1993 from the HRS probability sample. In addition, individuals born before 1914 (then aged 80 and older) were recruited into AHEAD using a multistage probability sampling of individuals in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enrollment database. HRS and AHEAD merged in 1998.
|Age Eligibility||Age 51 and older|
|People Interviewed per Household||One person per household|
|Spouse Inclusion||Spouse of any age|
|Institutional Representation||Respondents followed into institutions|
|Oversampling||African-American and Hispanic households. HRS and AHEAD also oversampled households in Florida at Wave 1|
In most cases, HRS enrollment interviews are conducted face-to-face. From 1994 to 2004 (Waves 2 to 7), most follow-up interviews were conducted via telephone. Since 2006 (Wave 8), at each wave, half of the respondents complete the enhanced face-to-face (EFTF) interview with a health assessment, biomarker sampling, and a psychosocial survey that is left for the respondents to complete and send back to HRS. The other half of the respondents only complete the core interview by telephone. The half-samples alternate waves so there is an EFTF interview for each respondent every four years.
In addition to the core interview, HRS also collects a number of other types of data.
|End of Life Interview||Conducted starting at Wave 2 with next-of-kin knowledgeable about deceased respondents.|
|Life History Survey||Self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents between Waves 12 and 13 and Waves 13 and 14.|
|Self-Completion Surveys||Psychosocial self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents at Wave 7. Psychosocial self-completion survey provided to each half-sample of respondents every two waves starting at Wave 8. Consumption and Activities Mail Survey (CAMS) self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents every two years starting between Waves 5 and 6. Diabetes Study self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents between Waves 6 and 7. Prescription Drug Study self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents between Waves 7 and 8 and Waves 8 and 9. Disability Vignettes Study (DVS) self-completion survey provided to a sub-sample of respondents between Waves 8 and 9.|
|Health Assessment||Conducted every two waves starting at Wave 8 among each half-sample of respondents.|
|Blood-Based Biomarkers||Conducted every two waves between waves 8 and 13 among each half-sample of respondents via dried blood spots. Venous blood was drawn among a sub-sample of respondents at Wave 13 via a trained phlebotomist.|
|Cognitive Assessment||Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS) conducted in four waves between 2001 and 2009 on a sub-sample of respondents aged 70 years and older. The Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) was conducted at Wave 13 among a sub-sample of respondents aged 65 and older.|
|Genetic Data||Saliva collected every two waves starting at Wave 8 among each half-sample of respondents. Genotyping was performed for a sub-sample of respondents using the Illumina HumanOmni2.5 BeadChip. Exome variant measurement was performed for a sub-sample of respondents using the Illumina HumanExome BeadChip. Telomere length measurement was performed for 5,808 Wave 9 respondents using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).|
|Geographic Information||During Waves 1 to 13, respondents provided state, county, ZIP code, Census tract (1990, 2000, 2010), and Beale Urban-Rural Continuum (1993, 2003, 2013) information. Starting in Wave 4, respondents provided parent-state information. Starting in Wave 7, respondents provided city, state, and ZIP code information for any child living more than 10 miles from them.|
The HRS Wave 1 sample included 9,267 selected households containing 15,497 individuals born between 1931 and 1941 and their spouses. The AHEAD Wave 1 sample included 7,509 selected households containing 10,229 individuals born before 1924 and their spouses. HRS and AHEAD merged at HRS Wave 4. Starting at Wave 4, the HRS sample has been refreshed every three waves. When the Wave 4 refreshment sample was drawn, households were selected from the initial probability sample if they had a respondent born between 1942 and 1947 (War Babies). Another refreshment sample was drawn at Wave 4 using a multistage probability sampling of individuals in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enrollment database that were born between 1924 and 1930 (Children of Depression, COD). When the Wave 7 refreshment sample was drawn, using a second multistage probability sampling of households in the contiguous United States, households were selected if they had a respondent born between 1948 and 1953 (Early Baby Boomers, EBB). When the Wave 10 refreshment sample was drawn, households were selected from the second probability sample if they had a respondent born between 1954 and 1959 (Mid Baby Boomers, MBB). When the Wave 13 refreshment sample was drawn, households were selected from the second probability sample if they had a respondent born between 1960 and1965 (Late Baby Boomers, LBB).
HRS has included linkages to administrative data since Wave 1. Respondents are asked for permission to link to official records of Social Security earnings and benefits, Medicare claims, and Veteran’s Affairs healthcare utilization.
|Earnings and Benefits||Social Security Administration|
|Healthcare Utilization among respondents with prior military service||Veteran's Affairs|
|Medicare Claims||Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services|
Most public access HRS data can be downloaded from the University of Michigan. There are three levels of access available: 1) public, 2) sensitive, 3) restricted. The public data are anonymized and only require registration with the University of Michigan. The sensitive data include certain health-related variables, such as HCAP and blood-based biomarkers, and require additional approval. The restricted data include sensitive and/or confidential information, such as administrative linkages and geographic information, and are only available via secure remote access or under a license.
End of life interview
Life history interview
University of Michigan
|Genetic data (genotype)||
National Center for Biotechnology Information
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
The Gateway to Global Aging Data has created several user-friendly datasets based on HRS data designed to allow researchers to conduct cross-wave and cross-study analysis.
|Harmonized HRS||A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the core interviews and health assessments of Waves 1-14.||Download via HRS website|
|Harmonized HRS End of Life||A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the end of life interviews of Waves 2-12.||Download via HRS website|
|Harmonized HRS HCAP||A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) conducted at Wave 13.||Coming soon|
|RAND HRS Longitudinal File||A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the core interviews, health assessments, and end of life interviews of Waves 1-14.||Download via RAND website|
|RAND HRS Family File||A dataset of research-ready variables related to the respondent's family from the core interviews of Waves 1-12.||Download via RAND website|
All study overviews
Health and Retirement Study
Mexican Health and Aging Study
English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe
Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Aging Study
Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement
Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing
China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study