National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

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The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) is the only study of adolescent health, which has spawned over 2,500 peer-reviewed publications. Add Health is a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12 in the United States during the 1994-95 school year. The Add Health cohort has been followed into young adulthood with four in-home interviews, the most recent in 2008, when the sample was aged 24-32. Add Health combines longitudinal survey data on respondents’ social, economic, psychological and physical well-being with contextual data on the family, neighborhood, community, school, friendships, peer groups, and romantic relationships, providing unique opportunities to study how social environments and behaviors in adolescence are linked to health and achievement outcomes in young adulthood. The fourth wave of interviews expanded the collection of biological data in Add Health to understand the social, behavioral, and biological linkages in health trajectories as the Add Health cohort ages through adulthood.

Initiated in 1994 and supported by three program project grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) with cofunding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations, Add Health is the largest, most comprehensive longitudinal survey of adolescents ever undertaken. Beginning with an in-school questionnaire administered to a nationally representative sample of students in grades 7-12, the study followed up with a series of in-home interviews conducted in 1994-95, 1996, 2001-02, and 2007-08. Other sources of data include questionnaires for parents, siblings, fellow students, and school administrators and interviews with romantic partners. Preexisting databases provide information about neighborhoods and communities.

Add Health was developed in response to a mandate from the U.S. Congress to fund a study of adolescent health, and Waves I and II focus on the forces that may influence adolescents’ health and risk behaviors, including personal traits, families, friendships, romantic relationships, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods, and communities. As participants have aged into adulthood, however, the scientific goals of the study have expanded and evolved. Wave III, conducted when respondents were between 18 and 26 years old, focuses on how adolescent experiences and behaviors are related to decisions, behavior, and health outcomes in the transition to adulthood. At Wave IV, respondents were ages 24-32 and assuming adult roles and responsibilities. Follow up at Wave IV has enabled researchers to study developmental and health trajectories across the life course of adolescence into adulthood using an integrative approach that combines the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences in its research objectives, design, data collection, and analysis.

Multiple datasets are available for study, providing opportunities to increase knowledge in the social and behavioral sciences and many theoretical traditions. Add Health has become a national data resource for over 10,000 researchers. Users of the multiple Add Health datasets have obtained more than 400 independently funded research grants and have produced over 2,500 research articles published in multiple disciplinary journals and research outlets. We encourage researchers and students of public health, human development, biomedical sciences and related fields to explore the possibilities in this rich dataset.

Add Health was named the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health until 2014. In 2014, Add Health was renamed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to reflect the study’s ongoing, real time life view that follows individuals from early adolescence into adulthood.

Add Health is directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris (UNC, Chapel Hill), with fieldwork done by National Opinion Research Center (Waves I and II) and Research Triangle Institute (Waves III and IV). It is funded by the NICHD and 23 other federal agencies and foundations. The study was designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, with special assistance from Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle.1

Research Design[edit]

Add Health is a school-based longitudinal study of a purposive sample of adolescents in grades 7-12 in the United States in 1994-95. Data have been collected from adolescents, their fellow students, school administrators, parents, siblings, friends, and romantic partners through multiple data collection components, including four respondent in-home interviews. In addition, existing data bases with information about respondents’ neighborhoods and communities have been merged with Add Health data, including variables on income and poverty, unemployment, availability and utilization of health services, crime, church membership, and social programs and policies. View the Add Health design slideshow on the Add Health website to learn more.2

Content of survey[edit]

The Add Health study collects data to use in exploring the influences of both the individual attributes of respondents and the attributes of their various environments on health and health-related behavior. Below are examples of vital areas covered by the study3

  • chronic and disabling conditions
  • injury
  • mental health status (focus on depression)
  • suicidal intentions/thoughts
  • health-service access and use
  • height
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • biomarkers for metabolic, immune and inflammatory processes
  • medications
  • personality
  • religiosity and spirituality
  • sleep patterns
  • physical activity
  • diet
  • substance use/abuse
  • violence
  • delinquency, criminal offending, and involvement with the criminal justice system
  • education history and high school transcripts
  • work experiences and military service
  • relationships (parents, teachers, friends, romantic partners)
  • sexual behavior
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • contraception
  • pregnancy
  • children and parenting
  • household composition
  • neighborhood and school characteristics

Data Access[edit]

The Add Health study has collected data of interest to investigators from many disciplines in the social and behavioral sciences and from many theoretical traditions. The Add Health data are available in two forms—a public-use dataset and a restricted-use contractual dataset. It is a central concern of the Add Health study that the confidentiality of respondents be strictly protected. Please see the Add Health website for information on dataset content, codebooks and access information.4