Understanding Social Disparities in Health and Aging

The Americans' Changing Lives Study

The Americans' Changing Lives (ACL) study is the oldest ongoing nationally representative longitudinal study of the role of a broad range of social, psychological, and behavioral factors (along with aspects of medical care and environmental exposure) in health and the way health changes with age over the adult life course.

The study began in 1986 with a national face-to-face survey of 3617 adults ages 25 and up in the continental U.S., with African Americans and people aged 60 and over over-sampled at twice the rate of the others, and face-to-face re-interviews in 1989 of 83% (n=2867) of those still alive. Survivors have been re-interviewed by telephone, and where necessary face-to-face, in 1994 and 2001/02, and again in 2011/12. See Fig. 6 from House et al 2005 (below) for more details on the nature of the survey and the samples and click here for copies of the questionnaires for all waves.

1986 Nationally representitive cross-section survey of U.S. population aged 25+

  • Oversampling of blacks (2:1) and persons aged 60+ (2:1)
  • Sample size = 3617
  • Response rate = 68% - 70%
  • 86-minute face-to-face interview

1989 89-minute face-to-face reinterview of 2867 (or 83%) of survivors

1994 45-minute telephone or face-to-face reinterview of 2562 (or 83% of survivors, including 164 proxy interviews)

2001/2 45-minute telephone or face-to-face reinterview of 1787 (or 76%-80% of survivors, including 95 proxy interviews)

2011 60-minute telephone or face-to-face reinterview of 1427 (or 81% of survivors, including 108 proxy interviews)

1986-2001/2 Continuous mortality tracking via NDI and other methods

All ACL data have been archived for public use with the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), except for detailed personal or location data that might allow for identification of respondents, all of whose confidentiality has been and will continue to be guaranteed. All requests for data and documentation, and clarification thereof, should be addressed to ICPSR. These data have already been used in 122 publications by users of the public use data, in addition to the 52 publications by ACL investigators.

This website seeks to provide additional information that may be of use to users of the data, the respondents who make ACL possible and to whom we are deeply indebted, or those just seeking to learn more about ACL and its findings. This introduction provides additional data on the background and funding of the study and links to its scientific investigators and staff, publications and selected highlights of the study, and recent news about it.

More details of the history and major funding of the ACL through 2005 can be found in House, Lantz, and Herd (2005). The remainder of the website provides details on the current senior investigators, all data collection instruments, publications from the study by ACL investigators and others, an interactive section for ACL respondents to keep in touch with the study, as well as highlights from the ACL data and current news about the study and research deriving from it. We appreciate your interest and participation in the ACL project.

History of ACL