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Our wellbeing research examines how we can better foster good mental health.

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Otago harbour channel thumbnailWe work to understand why some people are healthy and some are not, how to prevent illness and injury, how people's health can be improved through working with communities, how political systems and health organisations affect health, and other issues relating to the health of populations.

Dr Shyamala Nada-Raja is a Senior Research Fellow and conducts research funded by HRC, MBIE, and the University of Otago on the:

  • Determinants of mental health and wellbeing in youth, including high school and university students
    Online Wellbeing Interventions
  • Epidemiology of self-harm / suicide / violence based on the Dunedin Study
  • Rural mental health and well-being
  • E-health interventions for mental health, well-being, and violence prevention
    Harmonised app


Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM)

Our collaborative research philosophy draws on the clinical and academic skills of the Department's psychiatrists and clinical and health psychologists with the overarching aim to improve mental health and the treatment of mental disorders, and to better understand how psychological factors influence physical health.

Health and medical psychology

Associate Professor Nicola Swain investigates Health Psychology which focuses on how psychological and behavioural factors influence physical health, with the range of topics including chronic pain management, aggression and violence in healthcare, applications of mindfulness, and issues for carers.

Dr Maria Kleinstäuber is a Clinical and Health Psychologist with research interests in behavioural medicine interventions and medically unexplained symptoms.


Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit – Te Roopū Rakahau Hauora Māori o Kāi Tahu

Kai tahu researchers thumbnailThe Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit (NTMHRU) contributes to a wide range of Māori health research projects and initiatives within the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, the University of Otago, and our communities to ensure important and beneficial outcomes for Māori.
Our people – Ko tātou

The Psychological and Physical Health and Wellbeing of New Zealand Contemporary Veterans

Professor Emma Wyeth is a Named Investigator on this project led by Professor David McBride. The project aims to describe the risk and protective factors for health and well-being of New Zealand veterans, including specifically for Māori veterans, who have served during and since the Persian Gulf War. This study will help to determine the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Multiple Symptom Illness (MSI) for this group.​


Va'a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health

The Va'a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health, based within the Division of Health Sciences, hosts several projects related to mental health and well-being among Pacific communities.

Ola Malohi Research Group: Mental health and well-being of Pacific youth in higher education

Tai Sapoaga thumbnailFaumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga, has been awarded an HRC grant for three years to investigate.

There are at least 30,000 Pacific students in tertiary institutions. This research seeks to support and enhance the mental health and well-being of Pacific students in tertiary institutions. We are seeking to determine the protective and resiliency factors, as well as other factors which impact on the health and mental wellbeing of Pacific students. We will explore students access to services, their experiences and expectations including barriers to using health or other support services. Furthermore, we wish to determine the role of access to services on their mental health, wellbeing and academic progress.


Sleep and wellbeing among Pacific children and adolescents

Professor Rose Richards has a HRC Pacific Project Grant to investigate sleep and wellbeing.

Rose Richards thumbnailEnsuring children and adolescents receive sufficient good-quality sleep is critical for their physical and emotional health. We currently know little about sleep in Pacific children and their families and how to best support good sleep / wake patterns within Pacific contexts. The overarching objective of this project is to inform the development of effective sleep interventions by capturing Pacific perspectives about sleep, health and interventions.

The first study will involve interviews with Pacific parents, exploring intergenerational changes in sleep patterns, associations between sleep and well-being and appropriateness of current sleep measurement and intervention strategies. A second study will use key informant interviews with Pacific health and educational professionals to explore the role of sleep in health / education outcomes for Pacific families and explore ways to maximise the effectiveness of sleep interventions for Pacific communities.


What happens to Pacific Island youth with mental health conditions: Evidence from the New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure

Lesieli Prescott, a Master's in Health Sciences candidate, is investigating.

In New Zealand there is currently an over representation of Pacific youth suffering from mental health conditions (MHCs). Despite this, little is known about the possible determinants leading to these conditions and furthermore, their association to other health outcomes. Using data extracted from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), this quantitative study retrospectively researched young Pacific people aged 10-14 years old who had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), mood disorder, anxiety, conduct disorder or substance disorder.

The aims of this research were to describe the diagnosis of these specified MHCs among Pacific youth in New Zealand; To explore the likelihood of deprivation and migration as determinants for the onset of these MHCs; And to examine whether there was an increased risk between the onset of these MHCs and the development of short-term health outcomes, measured by the occurrence of ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation (ASH) conditions.


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