Bei Wu


Bei Wu headshot

Bei Wu


Dean's Professor in Global Health
Vice Dean, Research
Affiliated Professor, Ashman Department of Periodontology & Implant Dentistry
Co-director, NYU Aging Incubator

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Accepting PhD students

Bei Wu's additional information

Bei Wu, PhD, is an inaugural co-director of the Aging Incubator at New York University. She holds the position of dean’s professor in global health and director of global health and aging research at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. She is also the director of research at the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at NYU. As a 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. She is leading an ongoing NIH-funded clinical trial to improve oral health for persons with cognitive impairment.

Wu is an internationally known leader in gerontology. Her career in gerontology has been distinguished by interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in various disciplines, including nursing and dentistry, at many academic institutions and organizations in the United States and abroad. Her research areas cover a wide range of topics related to aging and global health, including oral health, long-term care, dementia, and caregiving. She has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers, books, and conference abstracts and has delivered presentations at hundreds of conferences as an invited speaker. She has mentored hundreds of faculty members, visiting scholars, and students from various disciplines, including nursing, gerontology, dentistry, medicine, social work, demography, public health, sociology, public policy, geography, and economics.

Wu is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and the New York Academy of Medicine. She is an Honorary Member of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Wu is the former president of the Geriatric Oral Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research. She has served on a number of NIH review panels and is a frequent reviewer for multiple international funding agencies. She was honored as the 2017 IADR Distinguished Scientist in Geriatric Oral Research.

Wu earned her PhD and MS in Gerontology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and BS from Shanghai University.

PhD - Gerontology Center, University of Massachusetts, Boston
MS - Gerontology Center, University of Massachusetts, Boston
BS - Shanghai University


Honorary Member, Sigma Theta Tau International - Honor Society of Nursing

Faculty Honors Awards

Distinguished Scientist Award for Geriatric Oral Research, International Association for Dental Research (2017)
Pauline Gratz Professorship, Duke University School of Nursing (2014)
J. Morita Junior Investigator Award in Geriatric Oral Health, International Association for Dental Research (2007)
Fellow, New York Academy of Medicine
Fellow, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
Fellow, Gerontological Society of America


Adverse childhood experiences in relation to comorbid cardiovascular diseases and diabetes among middle-aged and old adults in China

Zhang, K., Wu, B., & Zhang, W. (2022). Geriatrics and Gerontology International, 22(1), 12-18. 10.1111/ggi.14312
Aim: To examine whether various aspects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with comorbid cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and diabetes among middle-aged and old adults in China. Methods: Using the 2018 China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study survey and the 2014 Life History survey, in total, 17 115 respondents aged ≥45 years were included. Logistic regressions were applied to estimate the relationship between aspects of ACEs and diagnosis of both CVDs and diabetes while adjusting for adulthood demographics, health and health behaviors. Results: Childhood hunger (OR = 1.75, P < 0.01), childhood socioeconomic status (OR = 1.45, P < 0.05) and abuse from father (OR = 1.50, P < 0.05) were significantly associated with greater odds of comorbid CVDs and diabetes above and beyond adulthood characteristics. In addition, the effects of these ACEs on comorbidity were stronger than their effects on the single chronic condition. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that, for middle-aged and old Chinese adults, ACEs could have long-lasting impacts on multiple chronic conditions in later life. Public health interventions should focus on the early life stage as the protective childhood conditions might help in warning of later clustering chronic diseases. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2022; 22: 12–18.

Factors Associated with Death Anxiety Among Rural Chinese Older Adults: The Terror Management Perspective

Pei, Y., Cong, Z., Silverstein, M., Li, S., & Wu, B. (2022). Research on Aging, 44(1), 65-72. 10.1177/0164027520981726
Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine how the factors suggested by the Terror Management Theory are associated with death anxiety among rural Chinese older adults. Method: Data were derived from a longitudinal survey of older adults aged 60 and above, had at least one living child, and were living in rural areas of Anhui Province. The working sample included 1,362 older adults. Two-level random effects models were used. Results: Children’s financial support was negatively related to death anxiety, whereas emotional closeness with children was positively related to death anxiety. Older women reported more death anxiety than older men. Functional limitations were positively associated with death anxiety, and the widowed reported less death anxiety than the married. We did not find a significant association between religious belief and death anxiety. Discussion: The study highlights the importance of culture in shaping death anxiety among older adults in rural China.

Advance Care Planning Engagement and End-of-life Preference Among Older Chinese Americans: Do Family Relationships and Immigrant Status Matter?

Pei, Y., Zhang, W., & Wu, B. (2021). Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 22(2), 340-343. 10.1016/j.jamda.2020.06.040
Objectives: To examine how immigrant status and family relationships are associated with advance care planning (ACP) engagement and end-of-life (EOL) preference in burial planning among older Chinese Americans, the largest subgroup of Asian Americans. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Communities in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Participants: Participants were 430 older Chinese Americans aged 55 years and older. Measures: Measures included ACP contemplation, ACP discussion, and EOL preference in burial planning, immigrant status, family cohesion, family conflict, demographic information, and health status. Results: Results show that in comparison to foreign-born Chinese Americans, US-born Chinese Americans were more likely to have ACP contemplation [odds ratio (OR) 2.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.39-5.63], ACP discussion (OR 3.02, 95% CI 1.50-6.08), and preferences for burial plans at the end of life (OR 4.56, 95% CI 2.04-10.18). Family conflict increased the possibility of having ACP contemplation (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.07-1.38), ACP discussion (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.07-1.39), and EOL preference in burial planning (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.04-1.42), whereas family cohesion was not associated with these study outcomes. Conclusions and Implications: This study suggests that ACP should be adapted to be more culturally appropriate, especially in a time of coronavirus and xenophobia, such as framing ACP as a tool to help families reduce stress while fulfilling filial obligations, in order to ensure equitable access to ACP.

Advance Directive Completion and Its Associated Factors Among Older Chinese Americans

Wang, K., Liu, Y., Sun, F., Kong, D., Jiang, L., & Wu, B. (2021). Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 22(2), 344-348. 10.1016/j.jamda.2020.06.049
Objectives: To examine the factors of advance directive (AD) completion among older Chinese Americans. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting and Participants: Data came from 435 Chinese Americans aged 55 years and older living in 2 metropolitan areas through self-administered questionnaires and research assistant–administered interviews in 2018. Participants' average age was 75 years (standard deviation = 9.4). Methods: Logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with AD completion. Results: Approximately 14% of participants completed an AD. Older age [odds ratio (OR) 1.07, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02-1.12], higher level of acculturation (OR 2.15, 95% CI 1.39-3.33), higher expectation for intergenerational support (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.02-2.27), and having US citizenship (OR 3.02, 95% CI 1.26-7.23) were positively associated with AD completion. Physical and mental health needs were not significantly associated with AD completion. Conclusions and Implications: This study is among the first focusing on AD completion among Chinese Americans, one of the fastest-growing older minority populations in the United States. Findings highlight the influence of socioeconomic and cultural factors on AD completion and illustrate the importance of developing culturally sensitive interventions to promote end-of-life care decision making among older Chinese Americans.

Advance directives and end-of-life care preferences among adults in Wuhan, China: a cross-sectional study

Ni, P., Wu, B., Lin, H., & Mao, J. (2021). BMC Public Health, 21(1). 10.1186/s12889-021-12046-3
Background: Little is known about advance directives (ADs) and end-of-life (EOL) care preferences among the general population in Mainland China. This study aimed to describe knowledge and attitudes of ADs and EOL care preferences, and to explore factors related to preferences for ADs among Chinese adults. Methods: The sample included 1114 adult participants in Wuhan, Mainland China. A brief message including the link to the online survey was sent to local residents who were registered at household registration management centers in Wuhan. The questionnaire included information regarding demographics, self-rated health, views on ADs and EOL care. Bivariate analyses and binary forward logistic regression were conducted to examine factors related to ADs preferences of Chinese adults. Results: The average age of the sample was 48.0 years and more than half of the sample was female. 81.8% had never heard of ADs, but 86.6% indicated that they might create one after learning what ADs were. 58% would choose hospice care if they were terminally ill whereas 48.7% of the participants wanted to die at home. 92.3% would want to know their diagnosis and prognosis if ill; however, if their family members were diagnosed with an incurable disease, 50.5% would not tell their ill family member the actual diagnosis and prognosis. Those who had heard of ADs (OR = 1.567, p < 0.001), earned an associate’s degree (OR = 2.448, p < 0.001) or a bachelor’s degree or higher (OR = 2.382, p < 0.001), and self-rated their health as very poor/poor (OR = 1.002, p = 0.001) were more likely to be willing to make an AD than their counterparts. However, those who were single (OR = 0.149, p < 0.001) or widowed /divorced/separated (OR = 0.405, p = 0.001) were less likely to be willing to make an AD than the married ones. Conclusions: Chinese adults showed positive attitudes towards ADs. There is an urgent need to promote more educational initiatives and raise awareness on the importance of ADs. It is important to develop more policies and legislation about ADs to improve the quality of EOL care in Mainland China.

Age at Migration and Cognitive Health Among Chinese Older Immigrants in the United States

Guo, M., Li, M., Xu, H., Stensland, M., Wu, B., & Dong, X. Q. (2021). Journal of Aging and Health, 33(9), 709-720. 10.1177/08982643211006612
Objectives: This study addressed two questions: (1) Is age at migration associated with cognitive function among Chinese older immigrants? and (2) what personal and environmental factors confound the above relationship? Methods: Data were derived from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly (N = 2957). Quantile and linear regressions were used to examine the associations between age at migration and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and global cognitive function, respectively. Results: Migration in late middle age (50–64) or late adulthood (65 or older) was associated with lower MMSE scores. Global cognition did not vary by age at migration. Associations between age at migration and MMSE were stronger among individuals with lower education or social engagement. Discussion: Migrating late in one’s life has important implications for cognitive health over the life course. Findings are helpful to identify vulnerable older immigrant segments and provide tailored interventions to promote their cognitive health.

Art Attendance and Change in Cognitive Function Among U.S. Community-Dwelling Chinese Older Adults

Petrovsky, D. V., Wu, B., Hodgson, N. A., & Dong, X. Q. (2021). Journal of Applied Gerontology. 10.1177/07334648211017339
Engaging in leisure activities that are cognitively simulating and enjoyable may be protective against cognitive decline in older adults; yet, few studies have examined this topic. We used two waves of data from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly and ran mixed-effects regression models to examine the relationship between baseline art activity attendance (including attending museum, musical arts, or both) and change in cognitive function (global, episodic memory, working memory, and executive function) among 2,703 older U.S. Chinese adults. We found that compared with older adults who did not attend any art activities, those who reported attending both art activities experienced a slower rate of change in episodic memory (estimate = −0.07; SE = 0.03; p =.01) and executive function (estimate = −0.06; SE =.03; p =.04). Our study findings point to the importance of attending art-based culture events among U.S. Chinese older adults.

Assessing psychological symptom networks related to HIV-positive duration among people living with HIV: a network analysis

Zhu, Z., Guo, M., Dong, T., Han, S., Hu, Y., & Wu, B. (2021). AIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV. 10.1080/09540121.2021.1929815
This study aims to explore and visualize relationships among multiple psychological symptoms among people living with HIV (PLWH) with different HIV-positive durations and to compare centrality indices and densities of psychological symptom networks. We used subsets of data collected from five designated HIV/AIDS hospitals in China. Networks were constructed among 16 psychological symptoms. Centrality properties, including strength and closeness, were adopted to describe relationships among symptoms. The results showed that PLWH with longer HIV-positive durations had denser emotional networks, which indicated that they had more emotional neuroticism than their newly diagnosed counterparts. Sadness, self-abasement, and self-loathing were the most central psychological symptoms across different HIV-positive durations. Our study suggests the need to provide psychosocial support services targeting PLWH according to changing symptom severity and neuroticism trajectories. Interventions should focus on increasing empathy for PLWH and enhancing the ability to consider the situation from different perspectives to avoid the development of neuroticism in long-term survivors.

Assessment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infection and Mortality Rates Among Nursing Homes With Different Proportions of Black Residents

Travers, J. L., Agarwal, M., Estrada, L. V., Dick, A. W., Gracner, T., Wu, B., & Stone, P. W. (2021). Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 22(4), 893-898.e2. 10.1016/j.jamda.2021.02.014
Objective: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has disproportionately impacted nursing homes (NHs) with large shares of Black residents. We examined the associations between the proportion of Black residents in NHs and COVID-19 infections and deaths, accounting for structural bias (operationalized as county-level factors) and stratifying by urbanicity/rurality. Design: This was a cross-sectional observational cohort study using publicly available data from the LTCfocus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Long-Term Care Facility COVID-19 Module, and the NYTimes county-level COVID-19 database. Four multivariable linear regression models omitting and including facility characteristics, COVID-19 burden, and county-level fixed effects were estimated. Setting and Participants: In total, 11,587 US NHs that reported data on COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and had data in LTCfocus and NYTimes from January 20, 2020 through July 19, 2020. Measures: Proportion of Black residents in NHs (exposure); COVID-19 infections and deaths (main outcomes). Results: The proportion of Black residents in NHs were as follows: none= 3639 (31.4%), <20% = 1020 (8.8%), 20%-49.9% = 1586 (13.7%), ≥50% = 681 (5.9%), not reported = 4661 (40.2%). NHs with any Black residents showed significantly more COVID-19 infections and deaths than NHs with no Black residents. There were 13.6 percentage points more infections and 3.5 percentage points more deaths in NHs with ≥50% Black residents than in NHs with no Black residents (P <.001). Although facility characteristics explained some of the differences found in multivariable analyses, county-level factors and rurality explained more of the differences. Conclusions and Implications: It is likely that attributes of place, such as resources, services, and providers, important to equitable care and health outcomes are not readily available to counties where NHs have greater proportions of Black residents. Structural bias may underlie these inequities. It is imperative that support be provided to NHs that serve greater proportions of Black residents while considering the rurality of the NH setting.

Association between childhood conditions and arthritis among middle-aged and older adults in China: The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study

Lu, N., Wu, B., Jiang, N., & Dong, T. (2021). Ageing and Society, 41(11), 2484-2501. 10.1017/S0144686X20000343
This study examined the association between childhood conditions and arthritis among middle-aged and older adults in China. The data were derived from the 2015 wave and the life-history module of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with respondents age 45 and over across China. Multiple imputation was used to handle the missing data, generating a final analytic sample of 19,800. Doctor-diagnosed arthritis was the main outcome variable. Random-effects logistic regression models were used to test the proposed models. Approximately 8 per cent of the respondents had better family financial status in childhood than their neighbours. Close to 8 per cent had been hospitalised or encountered similar conditions (e.g. confined to bed or home) for at least one month in childhood. Around one-third reported better subjective health in childhood than their peers. The majority of the respondents (80%) reported that they had stable health resources, and that their mothers were illiterate during their childhood. Childhood family financial status, subjective health, mother's education, access to health care and medical catastrophic events were found to be significant factors associated with arthritis in later life, after controlling for adulthood and older-age conditions (family financial status: odds ratio (OR) = 0.885, 95 per cent confidence interval (95% CI) = 0.848-0.924; subjective health: OR = 0.924, 95% CI = 0.889-0.960; mother's education: OR = 0.863, 95% CI = 0.750-0.992; access to health care: OR = 0.729, 95% CI = 0.552-0.964; medical catastrophic events: OR = 1.266, 95% CI = 1.108-1.446). The study results highlight an important role that childhood conditions play in affecting the onset of arthritis in late life in China. Health-care providers may consider childhood conditions as a valuable screening criterion to identify risk populations, which could be used to guide health promotion and prevention programmes, and promote healthy ageing.