Tara L. Gruenewald, Ph.D., MPH

Assistant Professor in Gerontology


  • BS, Psychobiology, University of California, Davis, 1996
  • MA, Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 1998
  • PhD, Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, 2003
  • MPH, Health Services & Health Policy, University of California, Los Angeles, 2004


  1. Role of perceptions of social usefulness in mental and physical health outcomes in older adulthood.
  2. Role of social and productive engagement in mental and physical health in later life.
  3. Biology underlying connections between psychosocial factors and healthy aging.
  4. The measurement of allostatic load as a multi-system indicator of biological well-being.


As a social and health psychologist, Dr. Gruenewald’s research focuses on the mind-body processes that play a role in healthy aging during older adulthood. A particular interest is understanding how older adults’ perceptions of their social usefulness and value affect their mental and physical well-being in later life. Her research has shown that older adults who feel more useful to others live longer and with better cognitive and physical functioning as they age. Her current work is exploring the psychological and biological pathways through which feeling useful promotes better health, as well as the activities and interventions that encourage feelings of usefulness in later life. Along with a team of investigators at Johns Hopkins University and UCLA, she is exploring whether participation in the intergenerational program, Experience Corps, which brings together older adult volunteers and young schoolchildren, leads to better mental and physical well-being in older adults and better academic and psychosocial outcomes in children. Dr. Gruenewald also explores the biological pathways that underlie connections between psychosocial factors and healthy aging. Her research examines methods for assessing dysregulation across multiple biological systems in the body, based on the theory that social and psychological factors affect many biological processes. As part of this research, she explores methods for measuring allostatic load, a multi-system index of biological functioning, and the impact of psychosocial stressors and resources on the development of allostatic load in later adulthood and subsequent risk of poor health.

Mailing Address: University of Southern California
Davis School of Gerontology
3715 McClintock Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191

Office Location: GER 303

Office Phone: (213) 740-3705

Lab: GER 119


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Curriculum Vitae

Gruenewald, T.L., Karlamangla, A.S., Merkin, S.S., Crandall, C., Koretz, B., & Seeman, T.E. (in press). History of socioeconomic disadvantage and allostatic load in later life. Social Science and Medicine.

Gruenewald, T.L., Seeman, T.E., Karlamangla, A.S., Sarkisian, C.A. (2009). Allostatic load and frailty in older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57, 1525-1531.

Gruenewald, T.L., Karlamangla, A.S., Greendale, G.A., Singer, B.H., Seeman, T.E. (2009). Increased mortality risk in older adults with persistently low or declining feelings of usefulness to others. Journal of Aging and Health, 21(2): 398-425. PMCID: PMC2747376

Gruenewald, T.L., Karlamangla, A.S., Greendale, G.A., Singer, B.H., & Seeman, T.E. (2007). Feelings of Usefulness to Others as a Predictor of Disability and Mortality in Older Adults: The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 62B(1), P28-P37.

Gruenewald, T.L., Seeman, T.E., Ryff, C., Karlamangla, A.S., Singer, B.H. (2006). Combinations of biomarkers predictive of later life mortality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(38), 14158 –14163. PMCID: PMC1599928