ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance


Evaluating and Analyzing Life History Survey Data 2

Session Organisers Dr Mengyao Hu (University of Michigan)
Dr Brian Wells (University of California, Los Angeles)
Professor Jacqui Smith (University of Michigan)
TimeTuesday 16th July, 16:00 - 17:00
Room D05

There is an increasing multidisciplinary interest in understanding the long-term influences of early- and mid-life factors on late-life health and well-being outcomes. The knowledge gained about these time-varying complex relationships is critically important for designing policy intervention to reduce inequalities and foster healthy aging and well-being. One increasingly-popular method to obtain this information is to collect life history data using event history calendars. This approach has been applied in many large-scale surveys including the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Survey of Health and Ageing in Europe (SHARE).

Recently, the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) collected life history data in their off-year mail surveys in 2015 and 2017. The U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is unique among large scale, high quality longitudinal surveys in representing the full range of the U.S. birth cohorts beginning with the first cohort born before 1923 through the late-Boomers born in 1960-1965. These cohorts have participated in the major demographic, economic and social transformation of the American people over much of the past century. The newly collected life history data fill in critical information about HRS respondents between birth and their entry into the HRS beginning in their 50s (70s for oldest cohort) and have great implications for conducting research and making effective policies that will promote healthy aging.

These aforementioned large-scale, representative life history surveys differ in their survey designs. For example, the HRS life history survey was conducted through mail surveys, and most other surveys were conducted through in-person interviews. Little research so far has been done to evaluate the pros and cons of different design conditions in life history surveys, the cognitive burden and usability of these surveys. There is also a growing need to evaluate the validity of such distantly recalled information, and the quality of life history data in the Total Survey Error framework.

We invite the submission of abstracts on 1) methodological evaluation on the quality of life history data such as examining the validity of life history measures, and evaluating nonresponse and recall errors; 2) statistical methods to identify, measure and control for errors in life history surveys; 3) developments in the statistical methods to analyze life history data; and 4) substantive research projects that links early- and mid-life factors to life course patterns and outcomes.

Keywords: Life History Survey, Event History Calendars, HRS Life History Survey

How is rural-urban migration over the life course associated with later life wellbeing in China and Europe?

Dr Bram Vanhoutte (University of Manchester) - Presenting Author
Dr Nan Zhang (University of Manchester)
Dr Morten Wahrendorf (University of Duesseldorf)

Migrating between rural and urban areas over the life course reflects changes in people’s lives in terms of family relations and work opportunities, which profoundly shape the conditions of later life. This study investigates if links between migration and wellbeing differ between different contexts of development, and in different life phases. Making use of the life history data on accommodation in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) as well as the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) we set out to establish the similarities and differences that moving has in two very different contexts. The emphasis is on two aspects of moving: when it happens in the life course, and what type of migration is considered (rural to urban or urban to rural). Moving is defined by analyzing the retrospective life history data on accommodation with sequence analysis techniques distinguishing between urban and rural dwellings over the life course. Three hypotheses are tested in this study. First, the timing of moving matters, with moving in childhood or late midlife being associated with lower levels of wellbeing in both China and Europe, while moving in young adulthood is associated with higher wellbeing. Second, frequent moving and long duration of residential instability are associated with poorer later life wellbeing. Third, the order in which rural and urban contexts appear as residences over the life course matter for wellbeing, and interact with context: while moving from urban to rural living has negative associations with wellbeing in China, this is not so in Europe. Similarly, moving to the city and then back to the countryside has negative associations with wellbeing in China, while this is not the case in Europe. This cross-national comparative research enhances our understanding of the associations of health and wellbeing with internal migration, enriching the contemporary debate in migration theories.


Using retrospectively measured childhood data to predict health outcomes at older ages: a case study of childhood experiences of parenting and their association with health outcomes in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

Dr Panayotes Demakakos (University College London) - Presenting Author

The parent-child relationship is critical for human development. Yet little is known about its association with offspring’s health at older ages, where most cases of disease and death occur. We explored the associations between retrospectively measured experiences of parenting in childhood and health outcomes in a sample of individuals who participated in the ELSA Life History survey in 2007 and reported on the parenting style of both natural parents. Our hypothesis is that experiences of poor-quality parenting is a potent childhood stressor that could influence health over the life course in multiple ways. Poor-quality parenting was defined as low levels of parental care and high levels of parental overprotection.

We found significant associations between overall poor-quality parenting and increased risk of all-cause, cancer, and other non-cardiovascular mortality in participants aged 65-79y. Maternal and paternal parenting measures were individually associated with mortality. We also found persistent associations between childhood experiences of poor-quality parenting, especially paternal overprotection, and increased risk of incident all-site, skin, and colorectal cancer in men, and prevalent all-site and colorectal cancer in women aged ≥55y. In women, poor-quality parenting was also associated with premature and early natural menopause, earlier and later age at menarche, and a shorter reproductive lifespan. In most cases, adjustment for covariates explained a small part of these associations.

Although more research is needed, our findings suggest that retrospectively collected data can potentially be used to study life course associations between childhood exposures such as poor-quality parenting and health outcomes in older adults, which otherwise would not be possible to study due to lack of appropriate prospectively collected data. We suggest a systematic approach, which on the basis of theory, previous evidence, and (biological) plausibility assesses the associations between a retrospectively measured predictor and multiple health outcomes.


The role of early- and midlife living conditions for later life health in Europe

Mr Christian Deindl (University of Düsseldorf) - Presenting Author

We combined a life course perspective with a multilevel approach to analyze the impact of childhood conditions on later life objective and subjective health. We used SHARE and ELSA (retrospective interviews from both surveys) to disentangle how childhood and adulthood factors as well as contextual influences affect old age health using structural equation models.
The results showed that a lower status of the parental household during childhood leads not only to more illnesses during adulthood but also to poor health in old age. In line with cumulative disadvantage theory bad health in adulthood leads to more unemployment and to a lower social status and in return to poor later life health.
Last but not least the impact of income inequality on the country level is negative, indicating that health status is negatively affected by the unequal distribution of resources in a society.