Mortality and Health over the Life Course


IPR affiliates’ research on mortality and health is extensive and wide-ranging. Much of this research does not fall neatly under this Primary Research Area exclusively, as linkages between health/mortality and outcomes such as reproduction, union status, and migration are investigated. One stream of research applies demographic models and methods to examine cohort trends in mortality and specific health outcomes (such as obesity). Innovative methods for assigning cause of death is another area of research, with applications to all populations but especially mid- and low-income societies. Disparities in health according to socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity constitutes the program of research of several IPR affiliates. While most of this research uses national data (U.S. and other countries), several projects led by IPR affiliates investigate conditions in Ohio – projects on infant mortality and on the opioid epidemic, respectively -- and another project examines various health outcomes among young adults in Columbus. Financial support for IPR research on mortality and health is provided by NIH and the Ohio Department of Health.


Featured Project 

Project Title: The Role of Selection in Health Production and Aging Process

PI: Hui Zheng, Associate Professor of Sociology

Selection is prevalent and consequential in the population patterns of health and mortality. This project investigates the role of selection in health production and aging process over the life course and across birth cohorts. It encompasses four subprojects: (1) how selection may contribute to the evolving relationship between health and health determinants (e.g., marriage, education) over the life course, and the contingency in this relationship across the selection spectrum; (2) how different ages of onset of obesity, weight loss, and mortality selection effects may change the population compositions of body mass index groups across the life course and impact the aggregate observed effect of obesity on mortality over ages; (3) how mortality selection and cohort evolution mechanisms shape the rate of demographic aging, the rate of biological aging, and age-dependent mortality patterns across birth cohorts in both early and later transition countries; and (4) how changes in the level and variance of unobserved frailty over time may complicate the interpretation of cohort trends in health disparities and life expectancy and how to evaluate the bias due to this selection dynamics.

Recent Publications 

Zheng, Hui. Forthcoming. “Mortality Selection and Cohort Trends in Health Disparities.” Demographic Research.

Zheng, Hui and Siwei Cheng. 2018. “A Simulation Study of the Role of Cohort Forces in Mortality Patterns.” Biodemography and Social Biology 64 (3-4): 216-236. PMCID: PMC6927337

Tumin, Dmitry, and Hui Zheng. 2018. “Do the Health Benefits of Marriage Depend on the Likelihood of Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and Family 80: 622-636.

Zheng, Hui. 2017. “Why Does College Education Matter? Unveiling the Contributions of Selection Factors.” Social Science Research 68: 59-73. PMCID: PMC5685179

Zheng, Hui, and Jonathan Dirlam. 2016. “The BMI-Mortality Link across the Life Course: Two Selection Biases and Their Effects.” Plos One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148178.

​Zheng, Hui. 2014. “Aging in the Context of Cohort Evolution and Mortality Selection.” Demography 51(4):1295-1317. PMCID: PMC4110171


External Funding

“Population Heterogeneity in the Effects of Obesity on Mortality over the Life Course.” NIH/NIA R03 grant. 2017-2020: $150,000. 

“A Semi-parametric Approach to Mitigate Lagged Selection Bias in Trend Studies.” CDC NCHS R03 grant (Research and Methods in Health Statistics RFA-SH-16-001). 2016-2018: $147,558.


IPR Seed Grant

 “The Role of Selection in the College Education-Health Link.” 2016-2018.

 “Obesity and Mortality: Early Origins, Selection, and Trajectories.” 2013-2014