Midlife in the United States (MIDUS): Boston Longitudinal Study (BOLOS) of Cognition in Midlife, 1995-2008 (ICPSR 3596)

Published: Oct 13, 2017

Principal Investigator(s):
Margie E. Lachman, Brandeis University



Version V2



This survey of adult management tasks began in 1995 as part of a larger national project (MIDUS) to investigate the patterns, predictors, and consequences of midlife development in the areas of physical health, psychological well-being, and social responsibility. Conducted in Boston, the survey was designed to examine how adults manage tasks in three domains of life -- work, family, and health. Further goals were to describe the subjective experience of goal attainment in midlife and to link it with objective measures of short-term longitudinal changes and cognitive functioning. During the national study, the Boston area was intentionally oversampled in order to create a subset to be used for in-depth study of management processes in midlife.

The Boston study began six months after the national study, and consisted of three interviews: a 30-minute phone interview followed by a 20-minute mail questionnaire (Time 1), a 90-minute in-person combination of cognitive tests, cortisol testing, photograph taking, and interview (Time 2), and a 30-minute phone interview (Time 3), conducted at six-month intervals. The focus was on projects related to family, work, and health that participants were working on during the period of the study. Each successive interview investigated participants' assessments of their progress in the present, recollection of six months in the past, and prediction six months into the future. Two waves of data collection were completed for this study. There were 151 respondents who participated in the first wave, 151 respondents who participated in both waves, and 26 additional respondents who participated in the second wave of data collection.

At Time 1, participants generated a list of two important family, work, and health tasks, then chose one of each as the most important in that domain. For each of the most important tasks, questions were asked about deadlines, whether participants were doing tasks because they had to do them, felt that they should do them, or chose to do them, and whether participants were doing tasks for themselves, others, or both. All six projects were ranked according to importance, and participants divided all their time into percentages spent on family, work, and health. The majority of questions on the mail questionnaire at Time 1 were taken from the Midlife Development Inventory (MIDI), the instrument created for the national study.

Respondents were asked to rate their control over health, to make assessments about present, past, and future health, to list any serious illnesses, and to indicate their physical health status. Study participants also rated their mental health, and discussed stressful life events in the last six months for self, spouse/significant other, parents, and children. Other questions focused on depression, mastery and constraints, community involvement, family, work, and life satisfaction. Scales used included the Ryff Well-Being Scales, the Eysenck Personality Inventory, the Staudinger and Baltes Wisdom Scale (1995), and the Ways of Coping Scale.

Time 2 was done in-person, and included a 50-minute series of cognitive tests followed by a 40-minute interview. The cognitive testing consisted of nine measures of cognitive ability completed in the following order: WAIS Forward Digit Span, WAIS Backward Digit Span, WAIS Vocabulary, counting backwards test, letter comparison test, dual-task test involving the counting backwards and letter comparison tests, WAIS Digit Symbol, Schaie-Thurston Letter Series, and Raven's Advanced Progressive Ma Matrices.

The Time 2 interview began with a series of questions asking about each of the family, work, and health tasks elicited from the participants in Time 1. Many questions were repeated from the MIDI including rating physical health, family life, work situation, and life overall, rating physical and mental health from poor to excellent, and a measure of stressful life events in the last six months for self, spouse/significant other, parents, and children. Participants were asked to rate how old they felt and how old they looked and to indicate their total yearly household income. Lastly, a series of open-ended questions asked about best and worst aspects of family, work, and health, how participants managed their daily life, the most challenging aspect of life and how it was managed, and what participants found most helpful in carrying out their daily life. Photographs were taken of participants at the conclusion of the interview.

Time 3 asked again about each of the most important family, work, and health tasks elicited from the participants in Time 1. Newly developed questions asked participants about ideas related to middle age, including when the participant believed middle age begins and ends, whether the participant was younger than, in, or older than middle age, the biggest changes in middle age, the best and worst aspects of middle age, whether the participant knew anyone who had had a "midlife crisis," and whether he or she would have or had had a midlife crisis. Participants were asked to rate how often they had problems and how often things went well with respect to a list of 26 domains, and how much stress and how much control they had in these domains. Lastly, participants were asked whether they had ever returned to a degree-oriented educational program after being out of school for five or more years, whether they were presently taking classes to further their education, and whether being a participant in the study had influenced the ways they thought about their family, work, and health projects.

Lachman, Margie E. Midlife in the United States (MIDUS): Boston Longitudinal Study (BOLOS) of Cognition in Midlife, 1995-2008. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-10-13. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03596.v2

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John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Research Network on Successful Midlife Development

Metropolitan Area

1995-10 -- 1997-07

2004-12 -- 2008-07

1995 -- 1997

2004 -- 2008

Additional information about the Midlife Development in the United States study can be found at the MIDUS Web Site.

The original MIDUS study was the main research activity of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC). Additional information on MIDMAC research projects is provided on the MIDMAC Web site.

The data in this collection may be linked to the other MIDUS datasets using the variable M2ID.

Users may wish to refer to the ReadMe file to assist in understanding the various documentation files. The ReadMe also contains a concise study description that may be a helpful reference.

At MIDUS 1, 302 respondents from the MIDUS Main and City Oversample samples that lived in the Boston area participated in a series of interviews and cognitive tests performed by Brandeis University. This subsample of MIDUS participants in the M1 cognitive project became known as the Boston Longitudinal Study (BOLOS) sample. At MIDUS 2, 151 of the BOLOS respondents consented to a second round of interviews and tests, and an additional 26 individuals who completed the M2 survey project were added to the BOLOS project to boost the sample size. The total size of the BOLOS sample in this dataset is 328 (302 original baseline respondents plus 26 additional respondents added at M2). Additional information regarding sampling may be found in the Sample Description documentation.


The universe for the first wave Boston Longitudinal Study, collected between 1995 and 1997, includes the adult noninstitutionalized population of the Boston area living in households. The universe for the second wave of data, collected between 2004 and 2008, includes only participants in the first wave of the Boston Longitudinal Study.


personal interviews, telephone interviews, mailback questionnaires, and cognitive tests

clinical data

survey data

68% of the respondents of the first wave of the Boston Longitudinal Study agreed to participate in the second wave.

Likert-Type Scale; Ryff Well-Being Scale; Lie Scale (Eysenck Personality Inventory); Staudinger and Baltes Wisdom Scale; Ways of Coping Scale



2017-10-13 This is a substantial update to the prior version of the dataset. It includes several new cases and many new variables, developed in a second wave of surveys and interviews.

2004-09-02 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

The data do not contain a weight variable.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

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