This June our Lynn Armstrong will travel back across The Ditch to take part in the world’s longest-running multidisciplinary survey and we are utterly fascinated.
Now in its fifth decade, the Dunedin Study has been following the lives of 1,037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 at the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand, since their birth.
While originally designed to study child development and the prevalence of health problems in 3-year-olds, the study now leaves no stone unturned. It examines mental health, physical health, lifestyle choices, brain development and family issues of the original study participants as well as their parents/carers and now their children.
This year study members are entering into their twelfth assessment, with these having been conducted every two to three years on average since birth. Convening each assessment seems like no mean feat considering that the study has a 96 percent retention rate, the largest ever recorded for a study of this breadth, in addition to the worldwide distribution of study members with 25 percent now residing outside of New Zealand.
So what does one do with all of this data you may wonder?
To date, the Dunedin Study findings have been used in the USA to determine whether persons under 18 years of age have the brain capacity to act as an adult; consequently this saw the removal of the death penalty for minors.
It has also been determined that some mental health conditions previously believed to occur in late teenage years, can now be shown in early childhood in many instances.
They have changed the way kindergarten and early childhood education is undertaken in New Zealand and explored the age-old question of nature versus nurture and specifically how different genetics can predispose a person to domestic violence and lifelong crime.
It’s possible that this is only the tip of the iceberg and especially so with an ageing population in an increasingly globalised world.
We’re excited to see what Lynn and her children will undergo this year and especially how that data will be used to inform our future health, wealth and wellbeing.