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The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has received $195 million in new federal funding to extend its long-running Health and Retirement Study through 2029.

This is the largest research grant in University of Michigan history, according to a press release. The funding comes from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, and includes co-funding from the Social Security Administration.

The Health and Retirement Study looks at middle-aged and older adults in the United States and provides data on the challenges and opportunities of aging. The HRS will use the funds to continue to follow around 20,000 American adults aged 50 or older. Some have been part of the study for up to 30 years.

“We are grateful to the NIA for their scientific engagement as well as their financial support to this cooperative agreement,” said David Weir, director of HRS and research professor at ISR. “Together we have kept the study relevant to the rapidly advancing science of aging, maintained a diverse and nationally representative sample of participants, and with our commitment to data sharing steadily increased the number of users and publications supported by the HRS.”

Now that the HRS has funding through 2029, researchers plan on expanding the study’s focus.

“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will affect a growing number of older adults in the decades ahead, with huge implications for family caregivers and the cost of government support programs,” Kenneth Langa, co-director of HRS and professor of medicine at U-M said. “Our expanded data collection on cognition and disability in later life will be especially valuable to better understand and track the growing impact of dementia now and into the future, including the potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dementia risk.”

Jessica Faul, associate director of HRS and research associate professor at ISR, is expected to lead an expansion of the collection of blood-based biomarkers and genetic data.

“With these innovative measures, the HRS will be well-positioned to support new research to understand the biological pathways that link early life experiences, social and behavioral factors, and environmental exposures to health at older ages,” Faul said.

This study has led to the creation of similar projects around the world. More than 40 countries have launched studies that follow a similar pattern. More than 7,000 journal articles, books, and dissertations have been published with information from the study.

“I am so proud of the team at the Institute for Social Research for our record-setting grant from the National Institute of Aging,” said U-M President Santa Ono. “But I’m even prouder of the impact the institute has had since its founding, and the research it continues to provide which transcends academic disciplines, opens our eyes, and points toward solutions for the great challenges of our time.”

The study was launched in 1990. It is supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIH grant U01AG009740) and the Social Security Administration.