Zhenmei Zhang

Zhenmei  Zhang
  • Professor
  • Department of Sociology
  • PhD, The Pennsylvania State University 2003
  • 408B Berkey Hall
  • 509 E. Circle Drive
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • 517-355-7545




Zhenmei Zhang received her PhD degree in Sociology and Demography from the Pennsylvania State University. She joined the faculty at Michigan State University in 2006. Dr. Zhang’s areas of expertise include aging and the life course, family and health, racial/ethnic disparities in health, and elder abuse and neglect. Specifically, her research has focused on the effects of social relationships on both physical and cognitive health in later life. Another line of her research has examined racial/ethnic differentials in a variety of health outcomes, including cognitive impairment, chronic health problems, and active life expectancy. Most recent projects have focused on life-course determinants of cognitive impairment and dementia in the United States and China. She used life-course theories and models to identify psychosocial and economic mechanisms underlying disparities in late-life cognitive health. Dr. Zhang’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Medicaid/Medicare. Her work has appeared inJournal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Science and Medicine, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Aging and Health,Research on Aging, and The Gerontologist etc.


My current research projects focus on how social relationships over the life course produce health inequalities in later life in the United States and China. I am interested in the following questions:

  • How does childhood social environment (e.g., friendships, parent-child relationship, neighborhood cohesion) affect later-life health?
  • How does marital biography (e.g., marital status, transition, timing, and quality) affect physical, mental, and cognitive health over the life course?
  • How does marital status affect the structure and quality of social relationships?




  • Asian Studies Center
  • Center for Gender in Global Context
  • Center for Advanced Study of International Development


Selected publications (2016-2022)

Zhang, Zhenmei, Hui Liu and Yan Zhang. 2022. "Marital Loss and Cognitive Function: Does Timing Matter?" The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbac069.
Hsieh, Ning and Zhenmei Zhang. 2021. “Childlessness and Social Support in Old Age in China.”  Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology. 36(2):121-137. doi: 10.1007/s10823-021-09427-x.
Zhang, Zhenmei., Hui Liu, & Seung-won Choi. 2021. "Marital Loss and Risk of Dementia: Do Race and Gender Matter?" Social Science & Medicine, 275, 113808. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.
Choi, Seung-won and Zhenmei Zhang (2021). Caring as Curing: Grandparenting and Depressive Symptoms in China. Social Science & Medicine, 289, 114452. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114452
Zhenmei Zhang, Hui Liu, and Seung-won Choi.  2020. “Early-life Characteristics, Midlife
Socioeconomic Status, and Late-life cognition: Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study.” Social Science & Medicine Volume, 244, 112575
Liu, Hui, Zhenmei Zhang, Seung-won Choi, and Kenneth M Langa. 2020. “Marital Status and Dementia: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study.”  The Journals of Gerontology,
Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 75(8) S1873-S1795. 
Yan-Liang Yu and Zhenmei Zhang. 2020. “Relationship Quality and Functional Limitations among Older Adults with Cardiovascular Disease in the United States.” Ageing & Society 40(8):1694-1717.
Zhang, Zhenmei., Lydia Li, Hongwei Xu, and Jinyu Liu. 2019. "Does Widowhood Affect Cognitive Function Among Chinese Older Adults?" Social Science & Medicine – Population Health, 7, 100329.
Xu, Hongwei, Zhenmei Zhang, Lydia Li, and Jinyu Liu. 2018 “Early-Life Exposure to China’s 1959-61 Famine and Midlife Cognition.” International Journal of Epidemiology. 47(1):109-120.
Zhang, Zhenmei, Jinyu Liu, Lydia Li, and Hongwei Xu. 2018. “The Long Arm of Childhood in China: Early-Life Conditions and Cognitive Function Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults.” Journal of Aging and Health. 30(8): 1319-1344.
Zhang, Zhenmei and I-Fen Lin. 2017. “Intergenerational Support Among Widowed Older Adults in China.” International Journal of Population Studies, 3(1): 94–109.

Zhang, Zhenmei, Mark D. Hayward, and Yan-Liang Yu. 2016. “Life Course Pathways to Racial Disparities in Cognitive Impairment Among Older Americans.”  Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 57(2): 184-199.
Xu, Hongwei, Lydia Li, Zhenmei Zhang, and Jinyu Liu.  2016. Is Natural Experiment a Cure? Re-examining the Long-Term Health Effects of China’s 1959-1961 Famine.” Social Science and Medicine.


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