A Review of Selected Longitudinal Studies on Aging: Past Findings and Future Directions
A review of the 51 longitudinal aging studies currently in the National Institute on Aging Database of Longitudinal Studies was conducted to identify major information gaps and areas for future research. Database information, which included posted study summaries, study details from principal investigators or directors of these projects, and more than 300 recent publications based on the studies, were reviewed to identify significant findings of each study. This review summarizes the main findings and identifies the need for future work within six broad study topics: cognitive function, socioeconomic status, health and physical performance, morbidity and mortality predictors, healthcare costs, and genetics. The percentages of these 51 studies addressing the four most common topics are as follows: cognitive function (44%), health and physical performance (51%), socioeconomic factors (55%), and predictors of morbidity/mortality (63%). Important areas not addressed to any major degree were healthcare costs and genetics. Only two studies reported findings on genetics or epigenetics of human aging, and only a single study reported on associations between aging and financial costs, especially healthcare costs, which have been postulated to be important determinants of care and life quality. The results of this review, together with the specific directions proposed by other investigators with longitudinal study expertise, will inform the strategic planning of future long-term studies of aging.