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Health & Retirement Studies Cross-National Data Harmonization Project

User Manual for the HRS Family of Studies Stress Harmonization Project

This is a draft of a guidebook that details measures included in Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the international HRS family of studies that capture various forms of stressor exposures and stress responses.


The guidebook will soon be housed on the Gateway to Global Aging Data website along with download-able harmonized variables to allow for cross-cultural analyses. The “G2” website provides a “Concordance” webpage on which users can specify specific domains of stress they are interested in and the portal will return the specific studies and variable names for measures which capture the specified domains of stress in the HRS family of studies.


The G2 stress module is not yet fully functional but interested users can obtain preliminary information on the various measures of stress in each of the studies in the HRS family of studies by visiting the website. In the future, the G2 website will directly link users to downloadable data files of stress-related measures in the HRS family of studies. The HRS and HRS Family of Studies Stress Measurement Guidebook will also detail important methodological characteristics to consider for those interested in utilizing data from multiple studies to conduct cross-national investigations of stress. The table below outlines the domains of stress assessed in each study in the HRS Family of Studies.

The manual is a work in progress, please email for the most recent version and if you have any edits.

Data Harmonization Project Details & Webinars

The Gateway to Global Aging website is a platform for population survey data on aging around the world. This site offers a digital library of survey questions, a search for finding comparable questions across surveys, and identically defined variables for cross-country analysis. To understand more about how to use this website, review this Gateway to Global Aging Data presentation describing the harmonization project by Dr. Jinkook Lee.

The Stress Measurement Network partnered with Dr. Jinkook Lee and her team to harmonize stress variables across the following studies: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS), the Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Aging Study (CRELES), the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA), the Japanese Study of Aging and Retirement (JSTAR), the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA), the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), and the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI). 


We have held two training webinars on how to take advantage of this great resource. In these webinars, we walk through an example of using harmonized stress variables. Other webinars, including an introduction to the harmonized data available at the Gateway to Global Aging Data. 

Measures recommended for inclusion in new and ongoing HRS studies

In consultation with the Stress Measurement Network and Emotional Well-Being Networks’ Scientific Advisory Boards, we have now reviewed the scope of the existing stress and emotional well-being measures in the HRS family of studies and created a list of important measures linked to healthy aging that were rarely included if at all. We prioritized (through voting) the rank order of measures we recommend for potential inclusion in population-based studies going forward as well as a Core Battery for new studies being launched. Here we provide our suggestions for the top 4 measures (and citations with a validation study and link to health outcomes). 

Stress Measures: 

  1. Perceived Stress 

  2. Early Life Adversity  

  3. Loneliness (this was included in many) 

  4. Everyday Discrimination  

Emotional Well-Being Measures: 

  1. Hope/optimism 

  2. Flourishing (Evaluative well-being)  

  3. Social Well-Being  

  4. Gratitude 

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