Research

Life course studies encompass all stages of life from birth to death. Affiliated faculty use a wide range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, including qualitative and quantitative work, historical studies of the life course in different periods, comparative studies of diverse societal contexts, and applied, policy-relevant research.

The LCC encourages the use of existing collections of statistical and survey data that provides unprecedented information on individuals, families, and subgroups at several points in the life course and in the context of multilayered (demographic, technological, social, and institutional) transformations. It also supports in-depth qualitative studies of age-related transitions. There is real need and opportunity to advance knowledge of the grand challenges of our times, including population aging and age-related processes as they play out in the distinctive transitions and trajectories of individuals and families across social, historical, and biographical time.

RESEARCH SNAPSHOTS

These are research highlights taken from our newsletter, the Life Course Ledger. Sign up to receive the LCC's monthly newsletter by emailing lifecourse@umn.edu.

NOVEMBER 2019

LCC Member Julia Drew and her co-author, Dongjuan Xu, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue University, study the distribution, trends, and consequences of injuries and falls for older adults to understand the consequences of aging for population health in the U.S. Injuries and falls are preventable, yet common, and can lead to severe consequences. They have two published papers on this subject and one under review. Read their work in Injury Prevention and The Gerontologist.

OCTOBER 2019

The IPUMS International team, led by LCC Members Lara Cleveland, Matt Sobek, and Steve Ruggles, has received a new grant from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) to expand the scope of the IPUMS database and create powerful new tools for analyzing population aging. With $3.1 million in funding from NIA, the team plans to add 40 censuses and 100 million cases from Global South countries to the IPUMS database. These data will include aging-related individual-level variables and aging-related contextual variables.

The United Nations projects that the population aged 60 and older will grow by more than 50% over the next 15 years. Most of the growth of the older population will take place in the Global South, which will include 80% of the older population by 2050. The growth of the older population in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia is occurring far more rapidly than it did in the developed countries of Europe and North America. The extraordinarily rapid aging of the developing world represents one of the most significant demographic transformations in history, with profound consequences for disease and disability, intergenerational relations, work and retirement, geographic mobility, and other economic and demographic processes. This database will provide a resource of unprecedented power for understanding the effects of public policies, social institutions, and environmental conditions on the health, well-being, and functioning of people over the life course and in their later years across the developing world.

SEPTEMBER 2019

MPC Member Elizabeth Wrigley-Field has been named the 2019-2020 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Aging Studies—a one-year appointment awarded to a faculty member to support research in aging that enhances and develops their own career in addition to the University’s scholarly capacity in aging science. To learn more about Dr. Wrigley-Field’s research and goals for her year as Fesler-Lampert Chair, visit the award page. There will be a recognition event on Wednesday, September 25th, from 5:00-8:00 PM. RSVP here.

JUNE/JULY 2019

Joseph E. Gaugler, PhD, is the Robert L. Kane Endowed Professor in Long-Term Care & Aging in the Division of Health Policy and Management and School of Public Health. Dr. Gaugler's research examines the sources and effectiveness of long-term care for persons with Alzheimer's disease and other chronic conditions. An applied gerontologist, Dr. Gaugler's interests include Alzheimer's disease and long-term care, the longitudinal ramifications of family care for persons with dementia and other chronic conditions, and the effectiveness of community-based and psychosocial services for older adults with dementia and their caregiving families. Dr. Gaugler was recently profiled in the Star Tribune for his work on reigniting the launch of a universitywide Center on Aging. Read the full article here.

MAY 2019

Kaspar Burger is currently a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota. Kaspar conducts research and teaches courses at the intersection of sociology of education, educational psychology, and children's rights studies. Dr. Burger is working with Dr. Jeylan Mortimer on research which he recently presented at a Life Course Demography, Aging, and Health Workshop under the title "Self-Esteem, Economic Self-Efficacy and Status Attainment: Evidence from a Panel Study of Three Generations." This work is part of a larger research project called “Micro-, Meso-, and Macro-Level Determinants of Educational Inequalities: An Interdisciplinary Approach.”

Dr. Burger also has a forthcoming article, “The socio-spatial dimension of educational inequality: A comparative European analysis” in Studies in Educational Evaluation. To learn more about his work, visit his profiles on ResearchGate and Scopus.

APRIL 2019

LCC Member, Health Policy and Management Assistant Professor, and Deputy Director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center Carrie Henning-Smith has a new article in the Journal of Applied Gerontology looking at the relationship between living alone and self-rated health. Her study found that middle-aged adults living alone had higher odds of poor/fair self-rated health compared with adults living with others. However, older adults had significantly lower odds of reporting poor/fair health than their counterparts living with others. This research points toward changes in policies and programs designed to support the growing population of people living alone. Read the full article here.

MARCH 2019

LCC Director Phyllis Moen and LCC Associate Director Sarah Flood have received a new NSF grant to examine the experiences of the Boomer Generation as they navigate later adulthood at a time when existing blueprints are outdated. Their study will provide important insights into who is or isn’t working longer and who is experiencing early exits or churn in the form of moving in and out of paid work. They assess the timing of exits and re-entries and whether working longer matters for the financial sustainability of individuals and their families or whether age-graded safety nets are more effective. Scientific advances from this work will inform the development of interventions promoting possibilities for working longer as well as for unpaid community engagement. This much needed research is quite timely in light of the extraordinary numbers of Boomer women and men considering or undergoing labor market transitions moving them from social inclusion to social exclusion from the mainstream of society.

FEBRUARY 2019

In a forthcoming Demography article, "The long lasting influenza: The impact of fetal stress during the 1918 influenza pandemic on socioeconomic attainment and health in Sweden 1968-2012," LCC Member Jonas Helgertz (research scientist at the ISRDI) and co-authors examine the long-term health and socioeconomic consequences of fetal exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Using several sources of contemporary aggregate statistics, their research shows that affected cohorts displayed only very limited signs of fetal health or socioeconomic selection. In examining the long-term consequences, they used longitudinal full-population data for Sweden, containing precise individual-level information on time and place of birth allowing us to gauge pandemic exposure with a high degree of precision. The results suggest no effects on socioeconomic outcomes (only examined for males), and with consistent but modest health effects (through mortality and hospitalization) for both men and women.

JANUARY 2019

Fang YuLCC member and professor in the School of Nursing, has been awarded two NIA grants to study Alzheimer's disease (AD). Because no drugs have yet been identified that can prevent, treat, or even slow down the progression of AD, her research focuses on combining aerobic exercise and cognitive training to improve reasoning and memory. If effective, such a program could be investigated further to assess its promise for preventing or delaying the onset of AD. Her second study will determine if 6 months of aerobic exercise will affect the decline in cognition and hippocampal volume in older adults with mild-to-moderate AD. This study could potentially reduce the public health impact of AD by providing an effective treatment, delaying nursing home placement, increasing physical function, improving the quality of life, and curbing the prohibitive health care costs for the growing population with AD and their 15 million family caregivers.