Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Dugan

Second Advisor

Frank Porell

Third Advisor

Nina M. Silverstein


Due to the automobile-dependent nature of the U.S., the rapidly growing population of older adults, and the association of several age-related impairments and unsafe driving, understanding the factors that impact changes in older adults’ driving behavior has important implications for policy and practice. Previous research has demonstrated the effect of sociodemographic characteristics and health factors on the driving status of older adults, however, the impact of broader social and environmental factors in decisions about driving is less established. The purpose of the current study is to advance understanding of the impact of the quality of social relationships as well as neighborhood social factors and physical attributes, controlling for sociodemographic and health characteristics, on the driving status of older adults. A second aim of this study is to assess the moderating role of gender in the investigated associations.

Guided by the socioecological theoretical model, multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted, using the large, nationally representative Health and Retirement Study dataset (waves 2006-2008 and 2008-2010) to investigate the predictors of changes in driving status. Results suggest that social relationship quality, particularly relationship strain, and both components of neighborhood context, social cohesion and physical disorder, impact changes in driving status among older adults. Findings also suggest that gender moderates the relationship between social and environmental context factors and older adults’ decisions about driving. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.


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