Duke University

CPHA at Duke University is a highly interdisciplinary environment for developing faculty and students who study aging. CPHA fosters important research breakthroughs, particularly in the overlapping areas of biodemography (biological and biomedical demography of aging), life course analyses, and intergenerational studies, including the transmission of health and longevity.

Research Themes
Determinants of health, well-being and longevity; Consequences of U.S. and global aging; Population, economic and health forecasting; Health trends and disparities; Disability, health care and long-term care; Cognitive aging and the demography of dementia; Biology, genetics and demography of aging; Population, economic and health forecasting; Economics of aging; Innovations in data collection and measurement in aging research; Determinants of health and aging across social species.

Pilot Projects

  • 2020. Susan Alberts . Early adversity in a wild primate model: Physiological mediation and social mitigation.

    Adversity in early life has far-reaching effects on health, well-being, and survival in adulthood, especially when multiple adverse events co-occur. This association is seen not only in humans, but also in captive and wild nonhuman primates. Captive primates exposed to nutritional deficits or maternal neglect show decreased survival in adulthood compared to control animals. Wild baboons who experienced multiple forms of early adversity show reduced adult survival compared to unaffected individuals. Studies of humans and captive animals suggest that immune processes may mediate the effects of early adversity on survival. Early social and physical adversity in humans and captive animals is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental illness, and allostatic load. In several studies of humans, early-life trauma is also associated with chronic inflammation or heightened inflammatory response to an immune threat. Population-based, prospective, longitudinal studies with multiple repeated measures of adult traits are necessary to fully understand the developmental and physiological underpinnings of early adversity. Innovation. This pilot offers a solution to these challenges by using existing prospective, full life-course data, with real-time, direct observations of both early life adversity and adult sociality, as well as repeated noninvasive measures of adult immune function measured in biological samples that have already been collected. Investigators anticipate the development of a novel dataset that will generate a large number of repeated measures of immunity for each subject in our study; this pilot will be one of the first to measure baseline and acute inflammation in serum from wild animals, a method that may be useful for other wild animal and human research. It will also be one of the first to leverage repeated measures within subjects to quantify baseline versus acute inflammation levels

    Priority Research Areas: Determinants of Health, Well-Being and Longevity


  • 2020. Herman Ponzer . The Daasanach pastoralist population of northern Kenya: A model for healthy aging—specifically the avoidance of non-communicable disease and frailty.

    Small-scale subsistence populations like the pastoralist population of northern Kenya, the Daasanach, have remarkably low prevalence of age-related frailty and cardiometabolic disease, diseases strongly associated with aging and responsible for the vast majority of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. and other industrialized populations. This pilot will investigate which aspects of lifestyle (physical activity, diet, etc.) promote healthy aging among the Daasanach. Two aspects of Daasanach life are of particular relevance to the study of aging. First, like many rural populations across the developing world, the Daasanach are moving from active traditional lifestyles to more sedentary, market-integrated village life. Second, the Daasanach have a largely animal- based diet (blood, milk, and meat). The Daasanach are at the epicenter of the epidemiological transition. Understanding lifestyle changes affecting their life course will help shape strategies to promote healthy aging and other positive health outcomes for them and for other populations in transition and post-transition. This pilot takes advantage of a societal transition in a pastoral environment to capture biosocial processes over the life course that lead to differential aging

    Priority Research Areas: Consequences of U.S. and Global Aging


  • 2019. William Pan. Sarcopenia and Sarcopenic Obesity Assessment in the US Population.

    Project nearing completion.


  • 2018. Jenny Tung, Daniel Belsky. Biological Age in Rhesus Monkeys: Causal Effects of Early Development Stress and Social Status.

    Project completed.


  • 2018. Susan Alberts. Effects of Early Life Adversity on Maternal Care and Offspring Survival in Wild Baboons.

    Project nearing completion.


  • 2018. Terrie Moffitt. A Segment of the Population with Large Economic Burden: The New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (NZ-IDI).

    Project Completed. Manuscript published Nature-Human Behavior.


  • 2018. Gregory Samanez-Larkin. Optimizing physical activity-related health promotion across adulthood using neuroimaging.

    Project completed.


  • 2017. Jen'nan Read. Disaggregating Ethnic Diversity in the Non-Hispanic White and Black Populations: Implications for Disability across the Life Course.

    Project completed. Manuscript under review.


  • 2017. Lynch, Scott. Cognitive and Happy Life Expectancy in the US.

    Project completed. Manuscript published Jo of Gerontology-Psychological Sciences


  • 2016. Jenny Tung. DNA methylation age in primate models of aging.

    R01 from NICHD recently awarded; R24 awarded January 2020.


  • 2016. Tyson Brown. Systematic investigation of racial/ethnic disparities in health among older adults.

    Manuscripts completed in Journal of Gerontology, Health and Social Behavior and Social Forces; NIA proposal in preparation.


  • 2016. Kenneth Land, Patrick J. Eric Stallard. Duke Alzheimer's Progress Index: Development of Software for Clinical Applications.

    Project completed. P30 Administrative Supplement awarded in 2018 for continuation of project now nearing completion. R01 in preparation.


  • 2016. Daniel Belsky. Advancing Translation of Molecular Signatures of Biological Aging.

    R21 awarded.


  • 2015. Elizabeth Frankenberg, Duncan Thomas. Computer-based Cognitive Testing of Adults following a Disaster.

    Project completed. R01 pending award.


  • 2015. V. Joseph Hotz, Candace Odgers. Pilot Study on Connectedness & Mobile Technology .

    Renewal proposal for CPHA includes Core D that extends this project to rural areas.



Center-Supported Publications


Center Administrator/Media Contact: Mimi Davis