The aim of this K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award application is to obtain training and conduct
research in spatial sciences and molecular genetics at the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of
Southern California (USC). The proposed projects will facilitate the PI’s transition to an independent researcher
in health and aging with emphases in environments and genetics. The PI is a developmental health
psychologist and has received rigorous training in multidisciplinary approaches to the social sciences. The
proposed training will add substantially to the PI’s skills in neighborhoods and health and genetic research.
Environments with a greater degree of crime, disorder, and decay may be a situation of chronic stress, with
exposure to such environments potentially resulting in poor health. The proposed research is highly significant
and innovative in its aims to methodologically advance understanding of relations between neighborhoods and
health, investigate affective and physiological pathways explaining this link, and examine age and genetic
moderation of this link. Through age-related declines in physical functioning and reduced mobility, older adults
may be particularly vulnerable to environmental stressors. Older age is one of the largest risk factors for
cardiometabolic diseases, and the proposed research will examine cardiometabolic health in the context of
multiple indices of environmental stressors. Additionally, genetic markers have been identified that are posited
to partially explain individual differences in stress sensitivity and cardiometabolic diseases. Findings from the
proposed research have the potential to inform policy and community-planning efforts.
The proposed research will use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a population-based
sample of people 50 years and older, and a NIH-funded Contextual Data Resource. HRS participants provide
blood and saliva samples for an analysis of physiological well-being and genetic information and respond to
questions about their neighborhoods and their health. The Contextual Data Resource that will be used in the
proposed research contains information on psychosocial and physical environmental stressors. Generalized
linear models will be used to examine individual-level data (participant neighborhood perceptions) and multi-
level models will be used for neighborhood-level data (neighborhood SES, crime, disorder and decay).
USC is an ideal location for conducting the proposed training, as there are ample intellectual, material, and
structural resources available for researchers in aging, molecular genetics, neighborhoods and health, and
psychophysiology. Funding for the R00 research projects will provide the necessary resources for the PI to
develop data and expertise to launch an independent research career as well as an R01 proposal examining
additional environmental stressors and cognitive and physical frailty among older adults.