A new paper by Shannon Monnat (Syracuse CAPS) and Irma Elo assesses the strengths and limitations of HRS data for identifying drivers of rising mortality rates in the U.S. and provides recommendations to enhance the utility of the HRS in this regard.
Shannon Monnat and Irma Elo (2022). Enhancing the Utility of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to Identify Drivers of Rising Mortality Rates in the United States. Forum for Health Economics and Policy. https://doi.org/10.1515/fhep-2021-0058
A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) highlights rising rates of working-age mortality in the United States, portending troubling population health trends for this group as they age. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is an invaluable resource for researchers studying health and aging dynamics among Americans ages 50 and above and has strong potential to be used by researchers to provide insights about the drivers of rising U.S. mortality rates. This paper assesses the strengths and limitations of HRS data for identifying drivers of rising mortality rates in the U.S. and provides recommendations to enhance the utility of the HRS in this regard. Among our many recommendations, we encourage the HRS to prioritize the following: link cause of death information to respondents; reduce the age of eligibility for inclusion in the sample; increase the rural sample size; enhance the existing HRS Contextual Data Resource by incorporating longitudinal measures of structural determinants of health; develop additional data linkages to capture residential settings and characteristics across the life course; and add measures that capture drug use, gun ownership, and social media use.