Home » Diversity and Inclusion » Diversity Profile: Meet Our Researchers » Featured Researcher: Yi Zeng, PhD

Featured Researcher: Yi Zeng, PhD

yi-zengI earned my Ph.D degree from Brussels Free University in the spring of 1986 with Ph.D thesis research at Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in 1984-1986, and conducted post-doc research at Princeton University in 1986-1987. I became an associate professor at Peking University in the fall of 1987 and was promoted to full professor in 1989 based on my peer-reviewed international publications. I joined the Duke Center for Demographic Studies as a Research Professor in Jan. 1999 and become a tenured professor at Duke Aging Center and Geriatrics Division since June 2006, while I have kept my Professorship at Peking University in order to promote international collaborative research between American and Chinese scientists.  I greatly appreciate the knowledge and research experiences I learned from Professors Frans Willekens, Ron Lesthaeghe, Ansley Coale, Jane Menken, James Vaupel, Ken Land, Linda George, Philip Morgan and Harvey Cohen and other colleagues during my studies and work in the Europe and U.S., in addition to many of my mentors and colleagues when I studied and worked in China.

To gain better understandings on how social, behavioral and genetic factors and their interactions may affect healthy aging, I led the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) and research since 1998, jointly funded by NIA/NIH, China Natural and Social Sciences Foundations and United Nations Fund for Population Activities. CLHLS has conducted 7 waves of in-depth surveys in 22 provinces (representing 85% of China’s total population) using internationally compatible questionnaires. Detailed longitudinal data on mental/physical health, cognition, and social participation at old ages and various associated factors were collected from a total of 96,805 face-to-face interviews with 16,557 centenarians, 23,081 nonagenarians, 25,842 octogenarians, 19,650 younger elders aged 65-79, and 11,675 adults aged 35-64. Data on mortality and degree/length of disability before death for 26,701 participants who died between waves were collected in interviews with a close family member of the deceased. The CLHLS has collected DNA samples from 24,693 participants, including 4,849 centenarians, 5,190 nonagenarians, 5,274 octogenarians, 4,770 aged 65-79, and 4,609 aged 40-64.

The CLHLS team has had outstanding peer-reviewed publications, including the paper on “Associations of Environmental Factors With Elderly Health and Mortality in China” by Yi Zeng, Danan Gu, Jama Purser, Helen Hoenig and Nicholas Christakis, which won the American Journal of Public Health award in 2012 for the best paper of the year. As of 12/10/2015 and according to incomplete statistics, 2088 scholars had requested/obtained CLHLS datasets, which has resulted in publications of 9 books, 212 peer-reviewed articles in English, 287 peer-reviewed articles in Chinese, 28 Ph.D theses and 47 MA theses.

I would like to use this opportunity to sincerely thank all of the CLHLS voluntary participants, trained interviewers, and the China CDC who helped us to conduct the CLHLS field survey, biomarkers collections, and home-based health exams by the medical doctors and my colleagues at Peking University and Duke University, as well as the funding agencies who provided support to this large study.

I, Ken Land, Danan Gu and Zhenglian Wang published our book titled “Household and Living Arrangement Projections: The Extended Cohort-Component Method and Applications to the U.S. and China” in 2014 by the Springer Scientific Publisher. This book presents an innovative demographic method that helps to make detailed household, living arrangement and population projections at the national, sub-national or small area levels, and features applications in the United States and China to demographic, social, economic, and business research/policy analysis, including projections on elderly living arrangements, disability status, care needs and costs.

I have enjoyed very much the outstanding academic research environment at the Duke Aging Center and Geriatrics Division and wish to continue to make useful contributions to promote the productive international collaborations of healthy aging studies between faculties, post-docs and students from Duke University, Peking University and other involved Chinese institutions in the coming years.