Health, Aging & Life Course, Disability

This area brings together scholars who are members of six American Sociological Association sections: Medical Sociology, Aging and the Life Course, Disability in Society, Sociology of Population, Mental Health, and Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco. Collectively, we are concerned about the health and well-being of individuals of all ages, with a particular focus on social processes that generate disparities in health and health-related outcomes across the life course. Our research uses primary and secondary data to examine a range of topics including: care work and grandparenting; early-life influences on later-life outcomes; health and mortality among persons with long-term disability; intergenerational relationships; opioid use and deaths of despair; morbidity and mortality trends; the effects of state and local policies on health; racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in health; sexuality and sexual health; and veteran’s health. Many faculty and graduate students working in this area are affiliated with the Aging Studies Institute, the Center for Policy Research, and the Disability Studies Program.

Medical Sociology/Sociology of Mental Health (Landes, London, Monnat, Karas Montez, Harrington Meyer, Winder, Wilmoth)

Medical sociology and the sociology of mental health are conceptually related subfields that provide an analytical framework for understanding the social forces that create inequalities in health, illness, and health care. Central foci of faculty in this area include: the subjective experience of health and illness; social determinants of health, such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status; disparities in health care access and use; and the role of social policies in facilitating or creating barriers to healthy and equitable lives. Our faculty in this area ask questions such as: What are the causes of the opioid epidemic? Why do women live longer than men but report worse health? Why has educational attainment become such a strong predictor of how healthy and long people live? What factors are most important in shaping attitudes toward use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among young men who have sex with other men? Faculty in this area use a range of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods to answer these questions.

 Aging and Life Course (Harrington Meyer, Landes, London, Karas Montez, Silverstein, Wilmoth, Monnat)

Given the aging of the population in the United States and around the world, policy makers and practitioners across disciplines face an evolving set of concerns that are informed by a sociological perspective, including: What are the social, cultural, health, and economic implications of this demographic shift? How does the aging experience vary by race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, family structure, and policy context? Are people living longer and in better health? How does social support flow across generations and through public programs?  Faculty in this area use quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods to address these questions from a life course perspective.

Disability (Landes, London, Harrington Meyer, Karas Montez, Wilmoth)

Childhood disability rates have increased in recent years. In addition, due to improvements in support services, community integration, and access to medical care, persons with life-long disability are now living into older age. Both of these population changes, occurring at opposite ends of the life course, affect the health and well-being of persons with disability and their families. Faculty in this area focus on questions, such as: What are the roles of grandparents in providing care for children with disability? How do morbidity and mortality outcomes vary by demographic and socioeconomic status among persons with life-long disability - intellectual disability, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, or ADHD?; What are the primary causes of death for persons with life-long disability at different stages of the life course? Faculty in this area use a range of quantitative and qualitative methods to answer these questions.