Iliana V. Kohler, PhD


  •  Associate Practice Professor, Department of Sociology | University of Pennsylvania
  •  Malawi | Ghana
  •   ADRD | Aging | Biomarkers | Cognition | Mental health

Languages: English (proficient), German (proficient), Bulgarian (proficient)


I am social demographer interested in the demographic, health and social aspects of aging in low and middle income contexts. My approach to study global health, aging and mortality is based on the life-course perspective and in several projects and publications in collaboration with other researchers we have shown the long legacy of early childhood factors on health outcomes in late life in different contexts. I am leading a portfolio of research projects that critically evaluates social, demographic and epidemiological theories of aging outside the realm of the transitional aging studies that are focused on upper-middle-income and high-income contexts.


1. I am a key investigator on NIA R01 project focused on “Adversity, Aging and ADRD Risk among the Global Poor: A Biosocial Lifecourse Approach” . This project was also most recently featured in Penn News (January 22, 2024). The project will supplement a quarter-century of social and contextual data in the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health with additional longitudinal measures of cognition and genomic and epigenomic data (N=3,500) to pursue investigate critical factors contributing to accelerated aging in a LIC population with extensive lifecourse adversities, and analyze the relationship between epigenetic biomarkers and cognitive function to evaluate the biosocial determinants of ADRD risk. The project significantly enhances the diversity of study populations for global biosocial aging and ADRD research.

2. I am MPI on (with Irma Elo), of the NIA funded project (funded via the Research Network for the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP): Admin Supplement NIA U24AG065182 (MPIs: D. Weir and K. Langa) that focuses on “Cognitive Aging in Ghana: Implementing
HCAP in an African Low-Middle Income Country”. The overall aim of this pilot project is to validate the Harmonized Cognition Assessment Protocol (HCAP) in Ghana, a sub-Saharan African (SSA) low-middle income (LMIC) country located in westernAfrica with the goal of integrating the HCAP into the nationally-representative longitudinal SAGE survey.
The expansion of HCAP in LMICs in SSA, and the data from this pilot, will provide new opportunities for comparative research on cognition that will contribute to a better understanding of the processes that shape cognitive aging in low-middle income settings.


 Kohler, Iliana V., Fabrice Kämpfen, Chiwoza Bandawe and Hans-Peter Kohler (2023). Cognition and cognitive changes in a low-income sub-Saharan African aging population. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 95(1): 195– 212. doi:10.3233/JAD-230271.

 Myroniuk, Tyler W., Hans-Peter Kohler, Victor Mwapasa, James Mwera and Iliana V. Kohler (2024). Surprising Gendered Age Differences in Rural Malawians’ Early COVID-19 Pandemic Prevention Efforts. Conditional acceptance for publication in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

A.Ciancio, F. Kampfen, H.-P. Kohler, I.V. Kohler (2021) Health screening for emerging non-communicable disease burdens among the global poor: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Health Economics Vol 75

Payne, C. F., I.V. Kohler, C. Bandawe and H.-P. Kohler Kohler (2018). Cognition, Health, and Well-Being in a Rural Sub-Saharan African Population. 34 (4): 637-662. 10.1007/s10680-017-9445-1.

Last Updated: 01 February 2024