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Introduction » How to Use This Site

Overview: This is the Web site for the Health and Retirement Study, a major national panel study of the lives of older Americans. The Health and Retirement Study includes the "original" HRS study (data collection in 1992, 1994, and 1996) and the "AHEAD" study (data collections in 1993 and 1995). These studies were merged in 1998 and now represent the U.S. population over age 50 in 1998. Two new cohorts were added in 1998: the Children of the Depression (1924-1930) and the War Babies (1942-1947). A fourth cohort, Early Baby Boomers (1948-1953), was added in 2004 and a fifth cohort, Mid Boomers (1954-1959), was added in 2010. For a visual display of HRS data collection efforts, past, present and future, visit the Data Flow page.

Site Navigation: Start with the home page, which links to news items, data alerts, announcements and contains a brief description of the project. Each page has a navigation bar and path indicator that shows where you are in the site page hierarchy. The navigation bar has links to the main sections: Home, Introduction, Documentation, Data Products, and Publications. For convenience, a link is provided on the top of each page to the Search function (powered by Google). Many of the longer pages start with a "On this page..." box, which contains links to subsections within the current page. Click on any of these to move to the information in which you are interested. You can also use the Document Finder or Site Map to move directly to documents and/or pages of interest.

Documentation: The HRS data collection instruments are perhaps the most intricate and wide-ranging in the field. Information for all publically released data products is available on the Documentation page. This includes Questionnaires, Data Descriptions, and Codebooks as well as other items of interest. To determine the specific data items that you need for your analytical tasks, search all questions using the Question Concordance.

Data Products: Data releases are ongoing; see the What's Available page for an up-to-date list of Biennial Datasets, Longitudinal Datasets, Off-Year Studies, Sensitive Health Studies, and Researcher Contributions. To download the public release datasets, you must first obtain a username and password. Remember to check the Data Alerts page for errata, notes, and corrections before beginning any data management or analysis project.

Restricted Data Products: To maintain respondent confidentiality, certain HRS data sets such as Medicare Claims and Summary Data and Respondent Geographic Information are only available to qualified researchers under specific contractual conditions. Visit the Restricted Data page for more information.

Sensitive Health and Genetics Data Products: The HRS strives to provide high quality data without compromising respondent confidentiality. Since data elements relating to respondent health are apt to contain sensitive information, data products containing these elements are released through a supplemental registration system. Instructions on how to apply are available on the Sensitive Health Data and GWAS pages.

User Guides: HRS co-investigators and staff members have created a series of documents designed to provide additional information to "hands-on" users of HRS data products. User Guides are designed to provide analysts with documentation about the concepts, measures and questions in the HRS surveys. These reports expand upon the information found in codebooks, questionnaires and data descriptions. They also provide comprehensive descriptions of created measures (including their origin), changes made across waves, variable distributions, results from data quality analysis, information about the data structure of individual HRS surveys, and information on special data manipulation topics. Researchers who wish to use HRS family data should also review the Resources for Analysis of Family Data page. This section of the Web site brings together reference materials pertaining to HRS data content related to family issues. It contains direct links to relevant questionnaire areas, codebook content and bibliographic materials, as well as other associated information.

HRS Publications: Visit the Online Bibliography to find all publications based on HRS data. A static list published research based on HRS data, sorted by category and first-author, is available as a supplement to the online database. Also, if you have written, published, or presented any work involving our data, please Register it! Additional information related to the HRS may be found in the publications of the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center.

HRS News: See the HRS News Items, Events, and Announcements for a listing of all HRS news items, past and present: user newsletters, product announcements, upcoming events, and other items of interest.

More help: If you have further questions, concerns, or comments, you can contact us by surface mail, by e-mail or by visiting the HRS Help Desk.

Additional information: Review our User Newsletters, visit the Participants page, or jump to the Other Sites of Interest page, which includes links to government and university aging research sites.