Cohort Profile: The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS)

The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) is designed to study population-level trends and individual-level dynamics in late-life functioning in the USA. NHATS also facilitates investigation of differences in disablement for various at-risk subgroups and of the economic and social consequences of disability from aged 65 through to the end of life.

Adults ages 65 and older were sampled from the Medicare enrolment file and first interviewed in 2011 (n = 8245); the panel was refreshed in 2015 (n = 8334). Weighted estimates are representative of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older nationally.

Participants are interviewed annually in their homes. A facility interview is also completed for those in residential care settings. A last month of life interview collects details on quality of end-of-life care for decedents. Caregivers are also interviewed periodically.

A comprehensive validated protocol measures the components of disablement: self-reported and performance-based measures of physical and cognitive capacity, activities (mobility, self-care, household) and participation, accommodations (help, devices and modifications, behaviour changes) and the environment (physical, social, technological, services). Other topics cover rehabilitation service use, transportation, helper characteristics, well-being, economic status and baseline demographic characteristics. Interview data may be supplemented by restricted geographical information and linkages to Medicare data.