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November 28, 1986

The Duke Longitudinal Studies of Normal Aging 1955-1980: Overview of History, Design, and Findings

Author Affiliations

Home Health Agency Montefiore Medical Center New York

JAMA. 1986;256(20):2887. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380200125042

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This slim volume is essentially an overview and a partial summary of the quarter-century history of the Duke Longitudinal Project. With the working goal of delineating normative aging changes and being broadly conceived to be multidisciplinary in the data collection, the Duke experience also records some of the difficulties and hazards that longitudinal studies encounter. The investigator is hampered by the following: losing subjects to follow-up (the missing data problem); the emergence of better methods, which render older data obsolete; and the increasing difficulties of interviewing frail homebound or institution-bound subjects.

Although the focus of interest was on the cognitive, psychiatric, and social aspects of aging, these could not, of course, be isolated from the medical and pathologic. Although the size of the study—270 subjects for the First and 502 for the Second Longitudinal Study—was doubtless sufficient for the first set of objectives, it was not adequate for other epidemiologic