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Lifespan research at Otago

Rangahau whāroa o Ōtākou

Our lifespan research cluster brings together research groups with a full lifecourse perspective and those focusing on particular stages, and places in time.

Visit the listings of our research groups or our featured projects:

Ageing Well | Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumātuatanga

A National Science Challenge

Adding life to years

Three seniors in a garden The Challenge is a collaboration between the Universities of Otago, Auckland, Canterbury, Massey, Waikato, Victoria and Auckland University of Technology together with the Centre for Research Evaluation and Social Assessment, and AgResearch.

Ageing Well's vision is to add life to years for all older New Zealanders. This will be achieved by harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life.


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Centre for Neuroendocrinology | Te Pokapū Mātai Taiāki Iaia

A University of Otago Research Centre

Understanding the regulation of fertility, reproduction, and body weight

We study how the brain controls hormones in the blood, and how these hormones can regulate the brain's activity. Our specialist expertise is at the forefront of global neuroendocrinology research.

We have three themes of research that focus upon understanding the neural regulation of:

  • Reproduction
  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Stress


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Child Health Research at Otago | Rangahau Oranga Tamariki ki Ōtākau

A University of Otago Research Strength

Investigating health issues affecting our youngest New Zealanders

Child in a red shirt near a lakeChild Health Research at Otago gathers together the research expertise and activities of scientists investigating health issues primarily affecting our youngest New Zealanders.

We also partner with a wide range of stakeholders, communities, institutions, and nations beyond New Zealand to collaborate on health issues of global significance.

Explore our child health research:


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Christchurch Health and Development Study

University of Otago, Christchurch

Health, education and life progress over four decades

The Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) has been in existence for over 40 years. During this time we have followed the health, education, and life progress of a group of 1,265 children born in the Christchurch (New Zealand) urban region in mid-1977.

The cohort has been studied from infancy into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Data gathered over the course of the study now comprises some 50 million characters of information, with which the study has published over 500 scientific papers, reports, books and book chapters describing the life history of the CHDS cohort.


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Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE) | Te Taki Rangahau Pēperekou

A University of Otago Research Theme

Studying ageing in all its aspects

Two people walking towards each otherCARE conducts research in gerontology—the study of ageing in all its aspects. Gerontology is becoming increasingly important in developed countries, including New Zealand, because of our ageing populations.

Our network's areas of research strength include:

  • Physical health
  • Brain health
  • Social and policy development


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Dunedin Study

Following a generation of New Zealanders

Dunedin study 50 years anniversary celebration with cakeThe Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (Dunedin Study) is an ongoing, longitudinal study of the health, development and well-being of a general sample of New Zealanders.

Participants were studied at birth (1972-73), followed up and assessed at the age of three when the longitudinal study was established. Since then they have been assessed every two years until the age of 15, then at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, 38  and 45. Further assessments hope to continue.


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Healthier Lives | He Oranga Hauora

A National Science Challenge

Achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders

Sharing kai on the marae The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.

We are working on the prevention and treatment of four of New Zealand’s main non-communicable diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Our mission is to deliver the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient. We are doing this in partnership with stakeholders and communities by generating world class research, and translating our research findings into innovative health policy, practice, and technology, designed for New Zealand’s unique communities.


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National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR)

A University of Otago Research Centre

Fostering positive health, wellbeing and educational outcomes

Our studies focus on positive sustainable health, wellbeing and educational outcomes over time. We work with the community and are involved in national and international longitudinal (lifecourse) studies.The NCLR and partners have a long history of conducting world-leading lifecourse research. 

A lifecourse perspective emphasises how our development is shaped by the physical and human environment and highlights the importance of the early years in terms of later health and wellbeing.

Our research themes include:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Community research
  • Economic outcomes


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Lifespan research featured projects | Rangahau mō te roanga o te oranga tangata

Children's insights

Christina Ergler and childrenNew research that empowers the voices of three- and four-year-olds as urban planners has opened a conversation around how children view the communities they live in. It has revealed a new generation of considerate and future-oriented planners.

Past, present, future...

Richie Poulton thumbnailThe internationally acclaimed Dunedin Study is being reset. Building on its vast database of knowledge, using cutting-edge technologies and world-class expertise the study is now examining how we age. It is looking at why some people age faster than others – and how an extended life span might also be an extended health span.

Religion, family size and child success

John Shaver 2019 thumbAcross the world, religious people have more children than their secular counterparts. In modern environments, studies have found that the number of children in a family is inversely related to child success. Yet children born to religious parents often flourish. Why?

The Evolutionary Dynamics of Religion, Family Size and Child Success

The Māori home front: An untold story

Paterson Wanhalla thumbnailBy March 1943, 29,000 Māori – or one third of the Māori population – were contributing to World War II, many of them civilians. A new study will provide the first sustained examination of the Māori home front from the perspectives of women, young people, whānau and communities who experienced the war at home.

Young at heart

Patrick Vakaoti thumbnailThe desire to explore the issues facing young people in the Pacific is at the heart of one Otago researcher's work in Fiji.

“In Fiji, much of life is influenced by binaries ‒ there's a right and wrong way to live, speak and behave,” he says. “My initial interest in young people was sparked by the existence of those in the margins ‒ basically trying to understand why was it that some can 'make it' whereas others lead an alternative life, ostracised and on the streets.”

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Research in our four academic divisions | Te rangahau ki ō mātou whare mātauranga e whā

View more research activity in our academic divisions: