Abstract: Dr Sandhya Ramrakha

Research Highlights from the Dunedin Study”

The ‘Dunedin Study’, short for The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, is a world renowned study led by Professor Richie Poulton, CNZM FRSNZ, at the University of Otago, New Zealand. A documentary on the Study titled ‘Why am I?’ was aired on TVNZ in 2016  and has been sold for distribution worldwide.

What is this study and why has it garnered such acclaim? It is one of the most detailed studies of human health and development ever undertaken. More than a thousand individuals have been followed from birth to now mid-life. The study is known for its remarkable retention rate (95% participated at the last assessment) and for the depth and breadth of the physical, psychological and psychosocial information collected on Study Members. With this information, the researchers have conducted work in areas such as:

  • What matters most: your genes or your environment for how you turn out?
  • The development of mental health disorders.
  • Can schizophrenia be predicted from symptoms in childhood?
  • Does smoking cannabis impact upon IQ?
  • How early can we identify individuals with antisocial traits that will persist across the life-course?
  • Self-control in childhood – does it have lifelong consequences?

It is now embarking on research to discover how we can have a healthy and productive old age.

Dr. Ramrakha will highlight some of these findings before concentrating on the childhood self-control and implications for adult life.

Dr Sandhya Ramrakha has been the Research Manager of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit which conducts the Dunedin Study since 2008. She first joined the study almost 20 years ago as the lead mental health interviewer, when she was in-between jobs. She had left a career in the New South Wales (Australia) Department of Corrections as a Senior Clinical Psychologist to start a new life in Dunedin with her Kiwi husband. This temporary position led to a research career beginning with a PhD using data from the Dunedin Study focussing on the links between mental and sexual health, with specific reference to risky sexual behaviour. Sandhya manages the assessment phases of the Dunedin Study and her current focus is ensuring the age 45 assessment (which is the most complex thus far) runs smoothly and is as successful as previous assessments.