Dataset Resource Library


The UCSF Pepper Center brings substantial expertise in the analysis of datasets to answer important questions in aging research. In particular, the Pepper Center hosts several data resources that have been widely used by UCSF investigators. These include: 

Health and Retirement Study (HRS)

The HRS is a nationally representative, biennial panel survey of middle-aged and older adults in the United States, and provides extensive information on subjects’ health status, social and economic environment, and functional abilities since the survey’s inception in 1992. Linkages with Medicare data provide an additional window into the health and health services use among subjects.  


National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS)

The NHATS is a nationally representative, annual panel survey of older American adults that begin in 2011. Like HRS, it offers rich information across multiple domains of health, social characteristics, and other issues that are important for older adults, and offers linkages with Medicare data. 


National Veterans Affairs (VA) Data

The Veterans Health Administration offers a rich variety of research-quality clinical data for the millions of veterans under its care. The extent of clinical data available far surpasses that available under Medicare and offers unparalleled opportunities for research. VA’s VIReC Center offers linkages with Medicare data, allowing investigators to gain useful information on people who receive care through both VA and Medicare providers, and to compare care across systems.


Medicare Data

The Medicare program provides a wide variety of datasets that provide information about Medicare beneficiaries. 



Minimum Data Set (MDS)

MDS contains standardized assessments of nearly all nursing home residents in the United States, with information collected and recorded by nursing home staff a minimum of every 3 months. It includes a variety of measures of function and cognition.




Comparison of all 5 Supported Datasets


Claims data are typically data generated for billing purposes. Clinical data are data collected during routine clinical care. Survey data involve asking people questions.


Dataset Type of Data # of participants (rough) Years of Data Available Same people followed over time? Ease of Use Ease of Acquisition
HRS Survey 10,000's 1992 - present Yes Easier Easier
NHATS Survey 10,000's 2011 - present Yes Easier Easier
VA Claims + clinical Millions Decades Yes Harder Harder
Medicare Claims Millions Decades Yes Harder Harder
MDS Clinical Millions Decades Yes Harder Harder