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New Data Platform Increases Understanding of Global Aging

For Immediate Release
December 4, 2017

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

Rates of disability and morbidity vary widely between nations of the world — and because of economic, social and policy contexts, according to a new analysis by University of Southern California researchers appearing in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

International comparisons and the subsequent ranking of countries can be useful in understanding the success and failure of public policies and be used to inform potential policy interventions. Well-harmonized data with common standards of definitions and thorough documentation are prerequisites for such comparisons.

The Gateway to Global Aging Data (g2aging.org) is a data and information platform developed to facilitate cross-country analyses using the Health and Retirement Study family of surveys. The Gateway has compiled and indexed metadata enabling users to quickly attain consistent information across surveys for more than 30 countries and across waves of individual surveys. The harmonized data files have been built to significantly reduce such costs and to minimize errors for researchers, therefore increasing replicability of scientific findings.

“Using the Gateway to Global Aging Data and information platform will make analysis more accurate and help us develop better public health policies,” said Jinkook Lee, PhD, a research professor of economics at the Center for Social and Economic Research at the University of Southern California.

Using the harmonized measures available from the Gateway, the researchers described health outcomes in both newly developing economies and well-developed ones, including China, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. Focusing on older adults between the ages of 55 and 74, the reported disability rate is highest in England for men and in China for women, among many other differences across countries using the new data platform.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to understand much more about how the context affects the aging experience,” said Eileen Crimmins, PhD, FGSA, of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, a coauthor on the study. “It will allow us to separate what is universal from what is unique and potentially malleable.”

Cross-Country Comparisons of Disability and Morbidity: Evidence from the Gateway to Global Aging Data” was also coauthored by Drystan Phillips, MS, Jenny Wilkens, MPH, Sandy Chien, MS, Yu-Chen Lin, MPH, and Marco Angrisani, PhD, of the USC Center for Economic and Social Research. The Gateway to Global Aging Data is supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (Grant No. R01 AG030153).

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The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences is a peer-reviewed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

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