TARA  MCKAY

Biological markers of aging

sociologist. EDUCATOR.thought leader.

As a sociologist and demographer, I study a range of questions related to health, health disparities, and health policy. I work on questions that are important to me and the communities I belong to.


Major health events, like a new diagnosis or disability, hospitalization, or other serious health issue, can have significant effects on how people spend their time and who they spend it with. Political events, too, can shape who we want to spend time with. 


I'm studying social support structures among LGBTQ people at various stages of life using data from the University of California Berkeley Social Networks Study (UCNets) and the Vanderbilt University Social Networks, Aging, and Policy Study (VUSNAPS).


You can read more about how the 2016 Presidential Election of Donald Trump affected LGBTQ+ adults' social networks here

LGBTQ Social Networks

Traditional approaches to the study of aging usually focus on a single aging-related disease or indicator. Advances in the study of aging provided by geroscience now consider the cross-system process of aging as a common risk factor for the onset and progression of many chronic conditions and morbidities among older adults, focusing on genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms. 


With Lauren Gaydosh at the University of Texas, Austin's Center for Aging and Population Science, VUSNAPS is collecting buccal cell swabs and blood samples to look at cross-system indicators of accelerated aging, cognitive health, and a range of other aging outcomes among LGBTQ+ older adults. 

Access to LGBTQ Affirming Care

For many LGBTQ people, finding and going to the doctor is a stressful experience. LGBTQ people often search widely for a physician or practice that will be respectful and affirming of their identity. Some avoid or delay seeking care for a health problem because they anticipate that they will be discriminated against or treated poorly in the health care setting. 


In recent work, I'm studying differences in health, behavior, and health information outcomes among LGBTQ people who do and do not have an LGBTQ affirming provider. So far, we have found that having an LGBTQ affirming provide increases knowledge of HIV prevention practices among gay and bisexual men and improves uptake of preventative health screenings, like colorectal cancer screening, among all LGBTQ people.

You can find my university page here, my full CV here, and my publications here


Out of the office, I am a parent to three-year old twins; an enthusiastic if not very speedy cyclist, middle distance runner, and two-time co-captain of the AIDS/LifeCycle Team On Your Left; and a proud Timmermaniac!


​​Below I highlight a few of the specific research topics I'm excited about lately.