HRS: The Health and Retirement Study

  • Longitudinal study of older people created in 1990 to provide data for the study of health and retirement
    • Utilizes a longitudinal cohort sample design of 7 cohorts over the age of 50
  •  Largest and most comprehensive nationally representative multi-disciplinary panel study of Americans over age 50
  •  Contains both respondent level and household level data
  • Data were collected biennially from 1992 – 2018 (14 waves)

  • Core survey
    • Sample size generally ranges from n = 18000 – 23000 for any given wave
    • 1.5 – 3 hour interviews which consist of the main part of the data
    • Core survey contains information regarding the following domains
      • Health – Physical/psychological self-report, conditions, disabilities; biomarkers and genetics; cognitive testing; health behaviors
      • Health Services – Utilization, expenditure, insurance, out-of-pocket spending, linkage to Medicare claims data
      • Labor Force – Employment status/history, retirement, earnings, disability, retirement, type of work
      • Economic Status – Income by source, wealth by asset type, capital gains/debt, consumption; linkage to pensions, Social Security earnings/benefit histories
      • Family Structure – Extended family, proximity, transfers to/from of money, time, housing
      • Expectations – Decision making; subjective probabilities


HRS also provides data regarding the following content areas:

  • Experimental Modules
    • Three minutes on various topics
    • Sample size is generally 1,500
  • Enhanced Face-to-Face
    • Physical measures, biomarkers, genetics and psychosocial information that is collected on a random half of the sample every two years.
  • Supplemental studies
    • Range of topics that occur in the off year
    • Sample size is generally 3,000 – 7,000
    • Aging, Demographic and Memory Study (ADAMS)
      • In home clinical interviews conducted from 2001-2011
    • Mail surveys examine the following topics:
      • Human capital investments in children (2001)
      • Consumption and Activities (2001 – 2011, biennial)
      • Diabetes Care Management (2003)
      • Prescription drug use (2005 – 2009, biennial)
      • Subjective Well-Being (2009)
      • Disability vignettes (2007) health care satisfaction, access to care, VA care utilization (2011)
      • Health care and nutrition study (2013)
      • Internet surveys were administered (2003, 2006-2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)
  • Linkage to administrative data
    • Core data are linked to various sources of administrative data

For an introduction to the HRS click here

Click here for survey design and sampling information

Click here for data documentation

HRS data are available in two forms, public-use and restricted use.

Public-Use Data

  • Public-use data sets are currently available for all waves
  • Click here to download data, documentation, and setup files for SAS, SPSS, and Stata.

Restricted-Use Data

  • Some data resources in the HRS are restricted meaning they are available only under special agreement because they contain sensitive and/or confidential information.
  • There are two ways to access the data: the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) system and traditional licensing.
  • For Sensitive Health Data, a Sensitive Health Data Order Form can be submitted to request access to those data products.
  • Restricted data can be accessed for certain cognition data, biomarker and health data, administrative linkages and genetic data.


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