Skip to main content

24 July 2023

Dunedin Study receives £1.4m award to explore how aging works during midlife

New MRC funding will allow the study, which has followed the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973, to examine participants at age 52, creating an unprecedented unique dataset.

Woman digital scan AI iStock-1164014959

The Dunedin Study has been awarded £1.4m funding from Medical Research Council (MRC). The study seeks to discover why some people age earlier and faster than others, and what might be done to prevent this, and this funding will explore midlife stage.

The study has followed the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital, Dunedin, New Zealand, since their birth. Teams of national and international collaborators work on the Dunedin Study, including a team led by Professors Terrie Moffitt (Associate Director) and Avshalom Caspi at Duke University, USA and Kings College London.

The MRC award will fund ‘Midlife Aging in the Dunedin Study Phase 52’ which will quantify how fast or slowly each cohort member is aging in each of 8 different domains: the pace of biological aging, functional aging, facial aging, social aging, sexual aging, inflammatory aging, microvascular aging, and cognitive aging. The study will include a cross-faculty King's team, including Professor Moffitt and co-Investigators Professor Dag Aarsland (Head of Department of Old Age Psychiatry at IoPPN) and Dr Richard Siow (Director of Ageing Research at King’s and Reader in Vascular Biology in Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine). 

This award from the MRC represents 21 years of MRC investment in the longitudinal Dunedin Study. MRC joins with the New Zealand Health Research Council and the American National Institute on Aging to support this 5-decade cohort. We are all super excited to see the 1000 study members again on their 52nd birthdays!

Professor Terrie Moffitt, associate director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study

At midlife, there is still time to change lifestyles or implement preventions to improve people’s aging. But most studies of aging have enrolled participants well past midlife, and most studies of younger adults have not measured aging as a process of change over time. This gap means that there is surprisingly little basic knowledge about how aging works during midlife.

This new phase of the Dunedin Study will seek to close that gap, create an unprecedented unique dataset. Included in the study will be a wave of neuroimaging at age 52. Participants were previously imaged at age 45, and this new phase will test 7-year changes in functional neural connectivity and clinical measures of brain structure.

We are delighted that this MRC award highlights the multidisciplinary nature of ageing research across King’s and enhances our global partnerships. The research builds on the foundations of the high profile Dunedin Study to better understand the pace of ageing through a community life course approach.

Dr Richard Siow, Director of Ageing Research at King’s

The study will also test the hypothesis that fast-aging individuals also exhibit accelerated brain aging. This will be established through a second wave of neuroimaging at age 52. The study previously imaged the brains of Dunedin participants at age 45, and this next wave will test 7-year changes in functional neural connectivity and clinical measures of brain structure.

In this story

Terrie E. Moffitt

Chair in Social Behaviour & Development

Avshalom Caspi

Chair in Social/Personality Psychology

Dag Aarsland

Director, Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing

Richard Siow

Director, Ageing Research at King's