Skip to main content

National Social Life, Health, and Aging COVID-19 Study

A diverse group of seniors practice martial arts in their local park.
Assessing how resilience or vulnerabilities might affect older adults
  • Client
    National Institute on Aging
  • Dates
    2020 - 2021


Unknown impacts of the pandemic on the physical, mental, and social health of older adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an unprecedented period in recent history characterized by the rapid spreading of the virus, grave concern for public safety, and the implementation of guidelines for social distancing and other precautions. Early in the pandemic, older adults were at substantially increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19. However, little was known about how the pandemic was affecting older adults’ physical, mental, and social health in the short-term; whether these adverse impacts were heightened among sub-populations (e.g., historically marginalized and minoritized groups; those with cognitively decline); and whether resilience or other individual characteristics might reduce the ill-effects of the pandemic.


An entirely remote study of the effects of the pandemic on the health and well-being of U.S. older adults.

With support from the National Institute of Aging as an administrative supplement to the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), NORC fielded the NSHAP COVID-19 Study from September 2020 through January 2021, yielding responses from 2,672 older adults. This was the first time the NSHAP sample was surveyed solely through remote means, including web, phone, and paper-and-pencil modes of participation. Our remote methods permitted the safe collection of timely health survey data in the early phases of the pandemic when vaccinations were not yet available to the public.


Foundational knowledge of the pandemic’s impact that will expand in years to come.

The success of the COVID-19 remote survey methodology paved the way for an evolved model of data collection for NSHAP Round 4, in which half of surveys were conducted via the internet or phone. Furthermore, in the first two years since the COVID-19 data were collected, the study has already produced new knowledge described in various peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. With three Rounds of NSHAP data collection preceding the COVID-19 Study and the fourth Round recently completed, opportunities for additional longitudinal analysis are countless. In the years to come, we will expand our understanding of the role of the pandemic in altering longer-term social and health trajectories, and among which groups of older adults.

Project Leads

Explore NORC Health Projects

Adapting and Implementing a Toolkit to Identify Pneumonia in Patients

Adapting and implementing patient safety practices in ambulatory care


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy & Health Disparities Among Rural Farmworkers

Using Migrant and Seasonal Head Start infrastructure to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and document health disparities


W. K. Kellogg Foundation