The new grants will enable researchers to follow the group into their 40s, and better understand how early life – during adolescence and young adulthood – matters for health and well-being in middle age and beyond. UNC-Chapel Hill professor Kathleen Mullan Harris directed Add Health from 2004-2021 and this year UNC-Chapel Hill professors Robert Hummer and Allison Aiello assume leadership.
“Research on the early signs and symptoms of health conditions that usually manifest in older age, such as cognitive impairment, age-related loss of physical functioning and dementia, are rarely studied in early midlife, particularly at the national level,” said Aiello, Add Health deputy director, epidemiologist at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center. The newly funded research will also facilitate data collection surrounding rising health risks in middle age.
Their focus in the new, sixth wave of data collection is on the cognitive, mental and physical health of Add Health participants, with particular attention given to disparities in health outcomes across racial and ethnic, socioeconomic and gender groups. “Add Health has evolved because of a trusted, lengthy partnership between researchers, participants and funders,” said Hummer, Add Health director and the Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the UNC-Chapel Hill. “It’s astounding how this ground-up effort has evolved over many decades and continues to impact the way we understand human health.”
Add Health researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill work closely with those at RTI International, the University of Vermont and Exam One to conduct the study. The team of sociologists, psychologists, epidemiologists, physicians and research methodologists collaborate on study design, data collection and distributing data across the world. “The new measures of cognitive and physical functioning will provide an opportunity for researchers to study the accumulation of risk or preventative factors in later-life health, decades before conditions emerge in older age,” Aiello said.
Add Health data have also been instrumental in helping the scientific community better understand health disparities in the United States. More than 3,500 articles have been published using Add Health data. Those studies have exposed the obesity epidemic, raised awareness of high blood pressure in young adults and pioneered work on how the social environment interacts with genetic markers to influence behavior and health in adulthood.
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- Carolina Population Center receives $ 38.2 million to study adult health and aging
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