Bei Wu headshot

Bei Wu


Dean's Professor in Global Health
Director, Global Health & Aging Research
Director for Research, Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing
Affiliated Professor, Ashman Department of Periodontology & Implant Dentistry

1 212 992 5951

433 First Avenue
Room 520
New York, NY 10010
United States

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Professional overview

Dr. Bei Wu joins NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing as a fully tenured Professor of Nursing. She received her Bachelor of Law from Shanghai University and her PhD in Gerontology from University of Massachusetts Boston.

Dr. Wu’s career in gerontology has been distinguished by interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in various disciplines (particularly in nursing and in dentistry) at many academic institutions and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. She has provided keynote presentations, lectures, and/or consultation in dozens of universities and organizations in the United States and globally, including China, Singapore, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey.  As Principal Investigator, she has led a significant number of projects supported by federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Her numerous publications cover a variety of issues related to aging and health, including long-term care, dementia, caregiving, and oral health.  She has served on a number of NIH review panels and is also a frequent grant reviewer for the Research Fund of Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau, Medical Research Council (United Kingdom), and Chang Jiang Scholars Program at the Ministry of Education of China.

Dr. Wu was previously The Pauline Gratz Professor of Nursing and Professor of Global Health at Duke University, where she served as Director for International Research in the School of Nursing.  She was also a Senior Fellow of the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.  Dr. Wu is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. She is an Advisory Professor at Fudan University and was a Visiting Chair Professor at Wuhan University, Shanghai University, and Jiangsu University.  Dr. Wu is President of the Geriatric Oral Health Group of the International Association for Dental Research and Chair of the Mentoring Committee at the Gerontological Society of America.





Contributory behaviors and life satisfaction among Chinese older adults: Exploring variations by gender and living arrangements

Liu, S., Zhang, W., Wu, L. H., & Wu, B. (2018). Social Science and Medicine. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.06.015
The rapid population aging taking place in China makes studies tackling opportunities associated with aging an urgent priority. Based on the productive aging perspective, this study examines the relationship between contributory behaviors (i.e., providing economic, housework, and emotional support to adult children and providing care for grandchildren) and life satisfaction, as well as how gender and living arrangements modify the relationship. Using data collected from 809 older adults in Wuhan, China, and applying ordinary least squares regressions, this study found that engaging in contributory behaviors in general, and providing emotional support to adult children and caring for grandchildren in particular, are associated with enhanced life satisfaction. The association between caring for grandchildren and life satisfaction is only salient for males but not for females. For living arrangements, the positive association between engaging in contributory behaviors and life satisfaction is only identified among older adults living with their spouse and other family members. The positive association of providing emotional support to adult children with life satisfaction is significant for older adults living with their spouse only. Finally, frequently taking care of grandchildren is related positively to life satisfaction among those living with both spouse and other family members. Our findings provide empirical evidence suggesting that Chinese older adults are still very active in providing support to family members and highlight the beneficial effects of contributory behaviors on individual's life satisfaction. For policy makers, it is important to continuously promote values of contributing behaviors to family and take into account the importance of family ties and family support to older adults when designing new elder care programs.

Does Oral Health Predict Functional Status in Late Life? Findings From a National Sample

Zhang, W., Wu, Y. Y., & Wu, B. (2018). Journal of Aging and Health, 30(6), 924-944. 10.1177/0898264317698552
Objective: This study aims to examine the association between oral health and the decline in functional status among middle-aged and older adults in the United States. Method: Generalized estimation equation (GEE) Poisson regression models with robust standard errors were used to analyze the longitudinal panel data (2008-2014) from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 1,243). Oral health was evaluated using self-rated oral health, poor mouth condition, and tooth loss. Decline in functional status was assessed by disabilities in activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Results: Respondents with poor oral health were more likely to experience decline in ADLs/IADLs. Adjusting for sociodemographics and comorbidities attenuated the effects of oral health. Discussion: Findings suggest that oral health might be one of the important predictors of functioning decline in late life, after adjusting sociodemographics and comorbidities.

Place of Residence and Cognitive Function among the Adult Population in India

Xu, H., Ostbye, T., Vorderstrasse, A. A., Dupre, M. E., & Wu, B. (2018). Neuroepidemiology, 119-127. 10.1159/000486596
Background: The place of residence has been linked to cognitive function among adults in developed countries. This study examined how urban and rural residence was associated with cognitive function among adults in India. Methods: The World Health Organization Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health data was used to examine cognition among 6,244 community-residing adults age 50+ in 6 states in India. Residential status was categorized as urban, rural, urban-to-urban, rural-to-urban, rural-to-rural, and urban-to-rural. Cognition was assessed by immediate and delayed recall tests, digit span test, and verbal fluency test. Multilevel models were used to account for state-level differences and adjusted for individual-level sociodemographic, psychosocial, and health-related factors. Results: Urban residents and urban-to-urban migrants had the highest levels of cognition, whereas rural residents and those who migrated to (or within) rural areas had the lowest cognition. The differences largely persisted after adjustment for multiple covariates; however, rural-to-urban migrants had no difference in cognition from urban residents once socioeconomic factors were taken into account. Conclusion: Cognition among adults in India differed significantly according to their current and past place of residence. Socioeconomic factors played an important role in the cognitive function of adults in urban areas.

Residential Mobility and Cognitive Function Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults in China

Xu, H., Dupre, M. E., Østbye, T., Vorderstrasse, A. A., & Wu, B. (2018). Research on Aging. 10.1177/0164027518770780
Objectives: To assess the association between rural and urban residential mobility and cognitive function among middle-aged and older adults in China. Method: We used data from the World Health Organization Study on global AGEing and adult health that included adults age 50+ from China (N = 12,410). We used multivariate linear regressions to examine how residential mobility and age at migration were associated with cognitive function. Results: Urban and urban-to-urban residents had the highest level of cognitive function, whereas rural and rural-to-rural residents had the poorest cognitive function. Persons who migrated to/within rural areas before age 20 had poorer cognitive function than those who migrated during later adulthood. Socioeconomic factors played a major role in accounting for the disparities in cognition; however, the association remained significant after inclusion of all covariates. Discussion: Residential mobility and age at migration have significant implications for cognitive function among middle-aged and older adults in China.

Self-reported cognitive impairment across racial/ethnic groups in the United States, national health interview survey, 1997-2015

Luo, H., Yu, G., & Wu, B. (2018). Preventing Chronic Disease, 15(1). 10.5888/pcd15.170338
Introduction: The primary objectives of this study were 1) to examine trends of self-reported cognitive impairment among 5 major racial/ethnic groups during 1997-2015 in the United States and 2) to examine differences in the trends across these groups. Methods: Data were from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The sample consisted of 155,682 people aged 60 or older. Respondents were asked to report whether any family member was "limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because of experiencing periods of confusion." Race/ethnicity categories were non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian. We applied hierarchical age-period-cohort cross-classified random-effects models for the trend analysis. All analyses accounted for the complex survey design of NHIS. Results: The overall rate of self-reported cognitive impairment increased from 5.7% in 1997 to 6.7% in 2015 (P for trend <.001). Among non-Hispanic white respondents, the rate increased from 5.2% in 1997 to 6.1% in 2015 (slope = 0.14, P for trend <.001). We observed no significant trend in rate of cognitive impairment in other groups. After we controlled for covariates, we found that Asian (B = 0.31), non-Hispanic black (B = 0.37), Hispanic (B = 0.25), and Native American (B = 0.87) respondents were more likely than non-Hispanic white respondents to report cognitive impairment (P <.001 for all). Conclusion: We found an increased rate of self-reported cognitive impairment in older adults of 5 major racial/ethnic groups from 1997 through 2015 in the United States. However, the rate of self-reported cognitive impairment was low, which may suggest underreporting. There is a need to further promote awareness of the disease among individuals, family members, and health care providers.

Trends in annual dental visits among US dentate adults with and without self-reported diabetes and prediabetes, 2004-2014

Luo, H., Bell, R. A., Wright, W., Wu, Q., & Wu, B. (2018). Journal of the American Dental Association. 10.1016/j.adaj.2018.01.008
Background: The authors assessed the trends of annual dental visits in dentate adults with diabetes or prediabetes or no diabetes, and assessed whether the racial and ethnic disparities in dental visits changed from 2004 through 2014. Methods: Data for this analysis came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a US health survey that looks at behavioral risk factors that was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with state health departments. Respondents indicated whether they had a dental visit in the past 12 months. Weighted proportions were calculated for annual dental visits in adults by diabetes status, and trends were assessed by racial and ethnic groups. Results: From 2004 through 2014, the proportion of annual dental visits declined from 66.1% to 61.4% (trend P =.02) in the diabetes group, 71.9% to 66.5% (trend P =.01) in the no diabetes group, and 66.0% to 64.9% (trend P =.33) in the prediabetes group. Age, income, and health insurance were moderators of the association between diabetes status and dental visits. Overall, the racial and ethnic disparity in dental visits did not change significantly during the period. Conclusions: Dental visits and services were less frequent in people with diabetes and prediabetes. Racial and ethnic disparities in use of dental services persisted during the observed period. Practical Implications: All patients, especially those with diabetes, are encouraged to visit a dentist at least annually. It is important for health care providers, such as primary care physicians and dental care and public health professionals, to make concerted efforts to promote oral health care in diabetes management. Improving access to dental services is vital to achieving this goal.

Acculturation, depression and oral health of immigrants in the USA

Luo, H., Hybels, C. F., & Wu, B. (2017). International Dental Journal. 10.1111/idj.12364
Objectives: The objectives were to describe the oral health status of immigrants in the USA, describe the association between acculturation and oral health by accounting for the effects of depression and to explore the effects of interaction between acculturation and depression on the oral health of immigrants. Methods: Data were from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Oral health status was assessed by both self-rated oral health and clinically diagnosed periodontitis, each coded as a binary outcome. Acculturation was operationalised as length of stay in the USA and speaking English at home. Depression was assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Multiple logistic regression models were used to examine the association of acculturation and depression status with oral health. Results: In 2011-2012, 36.6% immigrants reported poor oral health and 53.0% were diagnosed with periodontitis. A length of stay in the USA of 30+ years (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.43, 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 0.21-0.89) reduced the odds of having periodontitis in comparison with a length of stay in the USA of fewer than 5 years. Speaking English at home (AOR = 0.64, 95% CI: 0.43-0.96) reduced the odds of having periodontitis compared with speaking other languages. Depression was negatively associated with self-reported good oral health (AOR = 0.43, 95% CI: 0.20-0.92) and positively associated with clinically diagnosed periodontitis (AOR = 1.89, 95% CI: 1.18-3.04). The effects of acculturation did not differ according to depression status. Conclusion: A longer stay in the USA and speaking English at home were associated with less periodontitis among the immigrants.

Are Expectations for Community Mental Health Increasing Among Older Adults in China?

Olesiuk, W. J., & Wu, B. (2017). Psychological Services. 10.1037/ser0000084
In recent years, the Chinese government began expanding access to social services to older adults. This study examined whether older adults have increasing expectations that psychological consulting services will be provided by their communities. We analyzed the responses of participants in a prospective cohort study at 2 time points: 2005 and 2008. We utilized logistic regression with survey weights to determine whether there were any changes in attitudes toward community mental health services during the study period, and to determine the correlates of this change. The study participants had a higher expectation that their government would provide psychological consulting services in 2008 than 2005. The multiple logistic regressions conducted indicated that there was a statistically significant relationship between expectations for community-provided psychological consulting services and being a rural resident (odds ratio [OR] = 0.553, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.353, 0.865]), change in gross regional product per capita (OR = 0.967, 95% CI [0.937, 0.997]), the interaction of those 2 variables (OR = 1.07, 95% CI [1.03, 1.11]), and increase in psychological well-being (OR = 0.971, 95% CI [0.954, 0.988]). Our study highlights the role that economic development can play in changing attitudes toward community-provided psychological consulting services. It suggests that as economic development occurs, expectations for local communities to provide mental health services will increase. (PsycINFO Database Record

Are expectations for community mental health services increasing among older adults in China?

Olesiuk, W., & Wu, B. (2017). Psychological Services.

Association between migration and cognitive status among middle-aged and older adults: A systematic review

Xu, H., Zhang, Y., & Wu, B. (2017). BMC Geriatrics, 17(1). 10.1186/s12877-017-0585-2
Background: This study aimed to synthesize the current literature examining the association between migration and cognitive function among middle-aged and older adults. Methods: We used the PRISMA as a guideline for this systematic review and searched the following databases: PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, and Global Health. Results: Twenty-five published studies were included. Twenty-two studies were focused on international migrants, while only 3 studied internal migrants. Fourteen studies were conducted in the United States, followed by UK (n = 2), Israel (n = 2), India (n = 2) and other countries like Canada and Australia. Some studies showed that middle-aged and older migrants demonstrated poorer cognitive function comparing to non-migrants in hosting places; while other studies indicated no association between migration and cognitive function. A higher level of acculturation was associated with better performance on cognitive function tests among migrants. Conclusion: It is unclear how or whether migration and cognitive function are related. The quality of current literature suffered from methodological deficiencies. Additional research is needed to examine the linkages using more comprehensive measures of migration and cognitive function.