Research Studies


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IN PROGRESS: COVID-19 and Older Adults: Perceptions, Behavior, and Experience


This study is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic event that began in spring 2020. The study involves anonymous online surveys distributed at regular intervals during the course of the pandemic event in an effort to capture how older adults' experience of the pandemic shifts as it develops. Each survey is only open for a 2-day period, anchoring the responses within the historical events of that moment. The surveys include both closed-ended questions and open-ended questions that permit older adults to share their experience in their own voice.


In this study, the primary goal is to understand older adults' experience of the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime stressor that is COVID-19. 


  • What aspects of this event are impacting older adults the most?

  • What factors increase older adults' vulnerability to COVID-19 stress? 

  • What are some older adults doing to successfully manage the stress, and how can we help spread those successful approaches to others? 

  • What can we learn from older adults’ experience with this event that can inform future pandemic or history-graded stressors like this? 

Below are images from a preliminary results report of qualitative responses sent out in May 2020:

COMPLETE: Think Healthy, Live Healthy: A Study of Health Perceptions and Health Behaviors in Later Life


The Think Healthy, Live Healthy study was a multi-phase study that followed participants for 5 years; the study began in Spring 2014, and involves yearly questionnaires, a 2-week "burst" of short daily surveys, and in-person interviews and health assessments. Before participating in the study, participants signed a consent form.


The daily survey portion was completed in 2015, and we finished up the in-person portion in April 2016. We have finished collecting all five waves of the questionnaires, with Wave 5 being completed in May 2018. The last phase of the study was a final in-person follow-up involving a physical health and function assessment, completed in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. 

Below are images from participant newsletters distributed over the course of the study:


























































Publications and Presentations Emerging from the Think Healthy, Live Healthy Study

The goal of any research study is to publicize findings by publishing results in peer-reviewed professional journals and presenting new research at professional conferences. Here are the publications that have used data collected through the Think Healthy, Live Healthy study. 

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2019). Investigating the function spiral in later life: Aging attitudes, physical activity, and gait. Journal of Health Psychology, 24(14), 1955-1964. doi: 10.1177/1359105317710814

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2018). Religiousness on mental health in older adults: The mediating role of social support and healthy behaviors. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture. Advance Online Publication. doi: 10.1080/13674676.2018.1504906

    • Whitehead, B. R., & Blaxton, J. M. (2017). Daily well-being benefits of exercise and activity in older adults: Does time spent matter? The Gerontologist. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw250

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2016). Health behaviors in older adults: Considering age, affect, and attitudes. Journal of Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1359105316631814

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2018, November). Faith on well-being in older adults: Is it activity engagement, social support, health behaviors, or all of the above? Poster to be presented at the Gerontological Society of America Conference, Boston, MA.

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2016, November). Aging attitudes and health habits mediate the link between objective and subjective function assessments. Poster presented at the Gerontological Society of America Conference, New Orleans, LA.

    • Whitehead, B. R. (2016, May). Differential predictors of health behaviors in older adults. Poster presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference, Chicago, IL.



NOTE: All research studies have been approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Michigan

© 2014 by the University of Michigan-Dearborn Aging Well Lab.