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Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study

About the cohort

Start date: 1972
Age at recruitment: birth
Sample size at recruitment: 1037
Current sample size: 1004

The Dunedin Longitudinal Study investigates the health, development, and behaviour of a one-year cohort of births in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s (NZ) South Island. Cohort members are primarily white; <7% self-identify as having some partial Maori ancestry, which matches the ethnic distribution of the South Island. Study members (N=1,037; 91% of eligible births; 52% male) were all individuals born between April 1972 and March 1973 at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital—the only maternity hospital in Dunedin. To be eligible for inclusion in the longitudinal cohort study, infants had to be still alive and resident in the greater Dunedin Metropolitan area 3 years after their birth, at the first follow-up.

A comparison of hospital records showed that the 1037 children enrolled in the Study were no different from those not enrolled in terms of maternal prenatal complications, birthweight, neonatal complications or family socioeconomic status. At initial enrolment, cohort families accurately represented the full distribution of socioeconomic status in NZ, as compared to the NZ census (and they still do today). We have published evidence that research participation has not improved Study members’ mental or physical health as compared to same-aged adult participants in the New Zealand National Health and Nutrition Survey (e.g. BMI, smoking, visits to the doctor). Day-long assessments (called phases) have been conducted at ages 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26, 32, and most recently at age 38 years (in 2010–2012) when 95% of the 1004 living Study members took part.

The next followup commences in 2017, at age 45. We have assessed over 90% of the cohort at 12 of the 13 previous phases, and attrition has not been cumulative; different individuals are absent at any given phase. These high retention rates mean that missing data are not a problem. Where variables are missing we have shown these to be “missing completely at random.”

The Study is described fully in Poulton, Moffitt, Silva (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, 679-693. 

Core funders

  • New Zealand Health Research Council (HRC),
  • NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE),
  • US National Institute on Aging (NIA),
  • UK Medical Research Council (MRC)


Website: (and

Principle Investigators: Prof Richie Poulton, Director and Prof Terrie E. Moffitt, Associate Director

Email: and

Page last updated: 23 December 2015

Page last updated: 23 Dec 2015


  • Gender: Male, Female
  • Sample size: 0-4,999
  • Age: 0 to 9, 10 to 19, 20 to 39, 40 to 59
  • Anthropometric: Height, Weight, Waist circumference, Hip circumference, Blood pressure
  • Physical: Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Musculoskeletal, Hearing and vision, Reproductive
  • Psychological: Mental health, Cognitive function
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, Physical activity, Dietary habits, Alcohol
  • Socio-economic: Occupation, Finances, Family circumstances, Housing, Education, Ethnic group, Marital status, Social support
  • Biological samples: Blood, Urine, Saliva, Other