University of Texas, Austin

The overarching mission of CAPS is to galvanize novel research that illuminates how biological, psychosocial, and environmental factors intersect and cascade throughout the life course to generate disparities in health and well-being at older ages. The Center promotes collaborations among scholars and supports pilot projects to address these complex aging and population health issues, and works to grow the number and diversity of researchers who study aging at all career stages.

Research Themes
Life course precursors of advantage and disadvantage at older ages; Family demography; Social engagement, and social isolation; Place, aging, and health.

Pilot Projects

  • 2021. Abigail Weitzman. Assessing the Feasibility of Panel Data Collection Among Adult Refugees in Costa Rica.

    The proposed project aims to collect pilot longitudinal data among refugees and other migrants in need of protection (MNP) who have relocated to Costa Rica to evade an imminent threat to their survival. To do so, the project will first conduct a baseline phone survey with MNP from various different Latin American countries who are ages 18 to 95 years and currently residing in Costa Rica. Following, it will then send these same MNP a series of standardized follow-up surveys to complete online either daily, weekly, or monthly. Analyses of the resultant data will provide new information about how the retention of MNP in panel surveys varies as a function of trauma history, age, and other personal characteristics. In addition, they will reveal: (1) how much variation exists in MNPs’ health, wellbeing, and hardship on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis; (2) how trauma histories and former ecological contexts (e.g. country of origin) sort refugees and other MNP onto different health trajectories; and (3) how trauma, age, country of origin, family structure, and attributes of personal networks predict MNP health and hardship on average. The findings promise to advance research and theory on trauma, aging, and international displacement by generating pilot data for an R01 project, adapting methods to track and describe the social and health circumstances of internationally displaced populations, and examining relationships between pre- and post-flight experiences, family dynamics, social incorporation, and MNP health and wellbeing across the adult life course.

     

     


  • 2021. Debra Umberson. How Spouses Influence Each Other’s Health in Same- and Different-Sex Marriages: A Dyadic and Longitudinal Assessment from Mid to Later Life.

    Decades of population research show that married Americans are in better health and live longer than their unmarried peers and that there are gender differences in how spouses influence each other’s health. Until recently, however, this research was entirely based on marriages between women and men. In 2015, with NIA support (R21 AG0445850), we collected dyadic data to conduct the first in-depth analysis of marital processes and health comparing legally married midlife spouses in same-sex and different-sex marriages. Findings have highlighted differences in health-related marital dynamics for women and men in same and different-sex unions. These dynamics likely impact both spouses’ long-term health, but due to a lack of longitudinal and dyadic data, scientists know little about how they do so. The major aim of this pilot project is to design and launch collection of Wave 2 data to construct a longitudinal, dyadic data set that will allow us to examine how same-sex partners influence each other’s health behaviors and mental and physical health over time, and in comparison to different-sex partners.


  • 2021. Diane Coffey. Gender Disparities in Adult Mortality and Morbidity in India: Understanding Variation and Investigating Mechanisms.

    A large body of research documents health disparities between boys and girls in India.  Gender discrimination leads to skewed sex ratios at birth, and to male-female gaps in child mortality and height that are markedly different from the rest of the world.  Such research highlights the rich complexity of how biology and society interact to produce population-level child health outcomes.  For example, in most countries, girls are more likely to survive childhood and less likely to be stunted than boys (Sawyer, 2012).  Yet, in India, many child health outcomes are similar across sexes, or worse for girls.

    Less research has documented, contextualized, and investigated disparities in morbidity and mortality between adult men and women.  Comparisons of gender differences in life expectancy suggest that the female life expectancy advantage that exists in almost every country is muted in India.  This proposal seeks to understand how and why women in India experience smaller, and sometimes no survival advantages compared to men.  By examining regional variation in gender discrimination, as well as regional variation in gender health gaps, we seek to build a more comprehensive model of disparities in the aging process in India, where one-sixth of people live.

     

    This project has three aims: 1) to identify gaps in the literature about gender disparities in health in India and compare how these gaps match with NIA funding priorities; 20 to identify how data on adult health and morbidity can be used to fill gaps in the literature; 3) to prepare preliminary analyses to be used in an NIA proposal and prepare a proposal.

     

     

     

     


  • 2021. Lauren Gaydosh. Biological Aging Among Older Sexual and Gender Minority Adults in the US South.

    Older sexual minorities constitute approximately 3 million Americans, a number expected to double by 2030. Moreover, 35% of SGM adults in the US reside in the South, yet many studies focus on SGM samples in coastal metropolitan cities. Sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations experience significantly worse morbidity, mental health, physical disability, and unmet healthcare needs compared with their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. With smaller kin networks, SGM are also more likely to experience social isolation. These health and social disparities have been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Vanderbilt University Social Networks, Aging, and Policy Study (VUSNAPS) investigates the health and aging of older SGM residing in four states in the US South (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee). This pilot project will collect innovative in-home self-collected blood samples for measurement of biomarkers of aging in a subsample (n=150) of the VUSNAPS cohort. We aim to assess the feasibility of this self-collection technology both in terms of acceptability in our study population and quality of the resulting biomarker measurements. We will construct biomarker-based measures of biological aging and examine variation by sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, we will investigate the relationship between social isolation and biological age, testing state-level variation. This project will contribute to the fields of biodemography, public health, minority health disparities, and gerontology, all of which will benefit from expanding access to biomarker data among a high-need and understudied population. The collection of biomarkers of aging among this population will be a major advancement in the measurement and study of health inequalities across gender identity and sexual orientation, especially in older age. The study will enable preliminary investigation into the disproportionate burden and lasting implications of the pandemic on health and aging in this vulnerable population.

     

     


  • 2021. Robert Crosnoe. Health Disparities among Aging Parents of Adult Children with Serious Conditions.

     

    This project will involve preliminary analyses and pilot data collection for a R01 proposal to NIA. The parent project—which will go through the NIH review cycle twice over the next year—is a large mixed-methods study investigating the physical and mental health toll on aging parents of children with serious conditions who have reached adulthood and how this toll can be buffered by resources in the family ecology related to marriage/partnership and by resources in the community related to the availability of health and human services. The pilot project’s goals are to conduct preliminary statistical modeling of a nationally representative data set that incorporates community-level measures from outside sources (e.g., Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Charitable Statistics), demonstrates feasibility, confirms power, and produces potential results supporting the proposed plan of quantitative analyses; to conduct a small number of pilot semi-structured interviews with local parents that allow refinement and expansion of the proposed qualitative sampling and data collection procedures and experimentation with the proposed textual and grounded theory analytical techniques; and to address, when possible, any suggestions and critiques that arise during the NIH review process related to data and analyses.


  • 2020. Chandra Muller. Education and Financial Resilience During Economic Recession for Healthy Aging: Record Linkage of High School Education Longitudinal Studies to Consumer Credit Data.


  • 2020. Elizabeth Munoz. Neighborhood Characteristics Throughout Life and Midlife Cognitive Functioning.


  • 2020. Elliot Tucker-Drob. Faculty Research Associate — Ph.D., University of Virginia.


  • 2020. Jennifer Glass. Trajectories of Mothers’ Breadwinning Responsibilities Over the Life Course.


  • 2020. Marika Cabral. Sources of Variation in Private Insurance Coverage Among Medicare Beneficiaries: Decomposing Place-Based and Person-Based Factors.



Center Administrator/Media Contact: Stacy Brodie