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June 5, 2024

Health and Retirement Study renewed through 2029 thanks to largest research grant in U-M history

Contact: Jon Meerdink ([email protected])

ANN ARBOR — The Institute for Social Research’s Health and Retirement Study (HRS) has been renewed through 2029 thanks to a grant expected to total approximately $195 million from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, with significant co-funding from the Social Security Administration. The new HRS award is the largest research grant in the history of the University of Michigan.

HRS is a long-running and highly successful study of middle-aged and older adults in the United States that has produced data used by researchers around the world. The study, considered the gold standard among many researchers in the field of aging, will utilize these new funds to continue to follow about 20,000 American adults aged 50 or more, some of whom have been a part of the study for up to 30 years.

David Weir, Research Professor in ISR and director of the HRS since 2007 said, “We are grateful to the NIA for their scientific engagement as well as their financial support to this cooperative agreement,” said David Weir, director of HRS and research professor at ISR. “Together we have kept the study relevant to the rapidly advancing science of aging, maintained a diverse and nationally representative sample of participants, and with our commitment to data sharing steadily increased the number of users and publications supported by the HRS.”

With funding now secured through 2029, the HRS will expand its focus on several high-priority scientific topics, according to Kenneth Langa, co-director of the HRS and professor of medicine at U-M.

“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will affect a growing number of older adults in the decades ahead, with huge implications for family caregivers and the cost of government support programs,” said Langa. “Our expanded data collection on cognition and disability in later life will be especially valuable to better understand and track the growing impact of dementia now and into the future, including the potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dementia risk.”

Jessica Faul, associate director of HRS and Research Associate Professor in ISR, will lead an expansion of the collection of blood-based biomarkers and genetic data.

“With these innovative measures, the HRS will be well-positioned to support new research to understand the biological pathways that link early life experiences, social and behavioral factors, and environmental exposures to health at older ages,” she said.

“We are thrilled to see renewed funding for the continued contributions of the Health and Retirement Study,” said Kate Cagney, director of the Institute for Social Research. “HRS’s body of work provides key insights into the aging population, and we look forward to seeing the study’s continued growth through the leadership of its principal investigators and devoted research team.”

In addition to expanding parts of the study, the new funding will allow HRS to continue its worldwide growth and influence. The study’s unique approach to its subject has resulted in the development of similar projects around the world; more than 40 countries have launched studies patterned on the HRS since its inception. More than 7,000 journal articles, books, and dissertations have been published leveraging information from the study.

“I am so proud of the team at the Institute for Social Research for our record-setting grant from the National Institute of Aging,” said Santa Ono, president of the University of Michigan. “But I’m even prouder of the impact the Institute has had since its founding, and the research it continues to provide which transcends academic disciplines, opens our eyes, and points toward solutions for the great challenges of our time.”

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell congratulated HRS on the grant renewal, praising the study and the University of Michigan for their respective work.

“This funding for the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study will continue decades of work to help us better understand the aging process,” said Dingell. “This study has allowed UM to dive deeper into the issues many Americans face as they age, such as income, work, assets, pension plans, health insurance, disability, physical health and functioning, cognitive functioning, health care expenditures, and more. I am proud of all that U-M has accomplished through this study and look forward to the life-changing research that this funding will continue to support.”

The Health and Retirement Study was launched in 1990 and is supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIH grant U01AG009740) and the Social Security Administration. Visit for more information about the study.