Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study

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The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (also known as the Dunedin Study) is a detailed study of human health, development and behaviour. Based at the University of Otago in New Zealand, the Dunedin Study has followed the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 at Dunedin's former Queen Mary Maternity Centre since their birth. Teams of national and international collaborators work on the Dunedin Study, including a team at Duke University in the United States. The research is constantly evolving to encompass research made possible by new technology and seeks to answer questions about how people's early years have an impact on mental and physical health as they age.[citation needed]

The study is now in its fifth decade and has produced over 1300 publications and reports, many of which have influenced or helped inform policy makers in New Zealand and overseas; many of these can be found on the publications section of their website.[citation needed]


The Dunedin Study was the idea of psychology student Phil Silva, who worked on a neonatology survey involving 250 children with learning and behavioural issues. He identified that 10% had significant problems that had previously been undiagnosed, a topic that he researched in his 1978 doctoral thesis.[1] He realised that a larger sample size was needed; this resulted in the Dunedin Study.[2] The original pool of study members was selected from children born at the Queen Mary Maternity Centre in Dunedin who were still living in the wider Otago region three years later. In early years the study was not well funded and the local community helped collect data.[3] The study members include 535 males and 502 females, 1013 singletons and 12 sets of twins. At the age 38 assessment, only one-third of members still resided in Dunedin; most of the remainder lived elsewhere in New Zealand and Australia.[4] Study members were assessed at age three, and then at ages 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26, 32,38 and, most recently, at age 45 (2017–2019). Future assessments are scheduled for age 52.[5] The study's original director, Silva, retired in 2000.[2] Since 2000, Professor Richie Poulton has been the study's director.[6]

During an assessment, study members are brought back to Dunedin from wherever in the world they live. They participate in a day of interviews, physical tests, dental examinations, blood tests, computer questionnaires, and surveys. Sub-studies of the Dunedin Study include the Family Health History Study which involved the parents of Dunedin Study members to find out about the health of family members (2003–2006); the ongoing Parenting Study which focuses on the Dunedin Study member and their first three-year-old child; and the Next Generation Study which involves the offspring of Dunedin Study members as they turn 15 and looks at the lifestyles, behaviours, attitudes, and health of today's teenagers. It aims to see how these have changed from when the original Study Members were 15 (in 1987–88). This means that information across three generations of the same families will be available.[7]

Great emphasis is placed on retention of study members. At the most recent (age 45) assessments, 94% of all living eligible study members, or 961 people, participated. This is unprecedented for a longitudinal study, with many others worldwide experiencing more than 40% drop-out rates.[8]

The resulting database has produced a wealth of information on many aspects of human health and development. As of 2015 over 1,200 papers, reports, book chapters and other publications have been produced using findings from the study.[2][3] The multidisciplinary aspect of the study has always been a central focus, with information ranging across:[citation needed]

  • Cardiovascular health and risk factors
  • Respiratory health
  • Oral health
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Mental health
  • Psychosocial functioning
  • Other health, including sensory, musculo-skeletal, and digestive

A book, From Child to Adult: Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, was published in 1996 and aimed at presenting the major findings in a form accessible to the non-specialist. It only includes information up to the age-21 assessment. Future plans for the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study include another popular science book, upgrading their website for more non-specialist appeal, and introducing more resources for the general public.[9]

This study was awarded the 2016 Prime Minister's Science Prize.[10] In 2022 it was awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi's Rutherford Medal.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silba, Phil A. "Some neurological and psychological characteristics of children who were preterm and small for gestational age : a multi-disciplinary study". Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Matthews, Philip (16 June 2016). "National portrait: Phil Silva, psychology pioneer". Stuff. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b Poulton, Richie; Moffitt, Terrie E.; Silva, Phil (2015). "The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study: overview of the first 40 years, with an eye to the future". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 50 (5): 679–693. doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1048-8. ISSN 0933-7954. PMC 4412685. PMID 25835958.
  4. ^ "The Study Members". Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Research Unit. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Dunedin Study published information". Dunedin Study. Archived from the original on 12 October 2014.
  6. ^ Chisholm, Donna (February 2017). "Finding the key to successful ageing". North & South (371): 36–49. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  7. ^ Hancox, Bob. "Next Generation Study". Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Research Unit. Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  8. ^ Roberts, Brent; Walton, Kate; Viechtbauer, Wolfgang (2006). "Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies". Psychological Bulletin. 132 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.1.1. PMID 16435954. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  9. ^ Silva, Phil A.; Stanton, Warren R., eds. (1996). From child to adult : the Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195583604. Archived from the original on 1 October 2023. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  10. ^ "2016 Prime Minister's Science Prize Winner | The Prime Minister's Science Prizes". www.pmscienceprizes.org.nz. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  11. ^ "The Dunedin Study wins Rutherford Medal and other Research Honours Aotearoa winners celebrated in Ōtepoti Dunedin". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 16 November 2022.

External links[edit]