Dr Mary Breheny staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 83523

Dr Mary Breheny PhD

Senior Lecturer in Rehabilitation

School of Health Sciences

My research programme focuses on understanding how social and economic issues influence health across the life course. I have conducted research on teenage mothers, mothering on welfare, and motherhood in later life. I have also researched the family life of older people including their experience of grandparenting.  I am interested in the ways that inequalities throughout the lifespan accumulate in later life and constrain older people from ageing well. 


Contact details

  • Location: 7.03, SST


  • PhD - Massey University (2007)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My research programme focuses on understanding how social and economic issues influence health across the life course. I am particularly interested in examining the ways that unequal access to resources constrain people from having a valued identity.  My areas of expertise include teenage mothers, mothering on welfare, and the social, community and economic lives of older people. I have experience in a range of qualitative methodologies including discourse analysis, narrative analysis, and rhetorical analysis. I am interested in critical and community research that examines social and structural impacts on health and wellbeing.

Research Opportunities

  • Experiences of ageing in New Zealand among those aged over 85 years  (01/02/2014) Analysing interview data from the Living Standards for Elders project focusing on the interviews with those aged over 85 years.
  • Ageing experiences across New Zealand localities  (01/02/2014) Analysing interview data from the Living Standards for Elders project focusing on the interviews from a specific locality and incorporating understanding of place into the analysis.
  • Analysis of a new measure of living standards for older people in New Zealand  (01/02/2014) Providing additional detailed analysis of a newly developed measure of living standards which assesses living standards in terms of variations from constraint to freedom. Examining the relationship between this measure and measures of quality of life and economic position.


Health and Well-being

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106): Psychological Methodology, Design and Analysis (170110): Psychology (170100): Psychology And Cognitive Sciences (170000): Social and Community Psychology (170113):
Studies In Human Society (160000)

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 7

Completed Projects

Project Title: Developing an Economic Living Standards Index for Elders

Living standards are proving to be an essential marker of economic status and well-being. By 2012 a theoretically based and statistically robust index of living standards for older people will be provided for use in population research (such as the NZ Longitudinal Study of Ageing), by Government research groups (such as the Ministry of Social Development), and for assessment use by community groups (such as Age Concern). This module will be used to assess and track changes in the living standards of older people. Limitations in standards of living constrain health and social participation and effective policy change to improve living standards requires early identification of deterioration. Measuring the living standards of older people effectively will provide a scientific basis for social policy advice to advance the independence and well-being of older people. The instrument developed in this project will equip researchers, policy makers, and community groups to assess gaps and recommend social and economic policies that ensure positive ageing and participation for older New Zealanders.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2009 - 2012

Funding Body: Foundation for Research, Science & Technology

Project Team:

Supervision and Teaching

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 3 1
CoSupervisor 1 1

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Caroline Day - PhD
    Grandmothering in the 21st century
  • Megan Hempel - PhD
    Developing the health and ageing study as a lifetime longitudinal study
  • Felicity Ware - PhD
    Whanau kopepe: Young Maori parents experiences of raising a family

CoSupervisor of:

  • Ella Kroch - Doctor of Clinical Psychology
    Exploring the Effectiveness of Combined Ketamine and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Treatment Resistant Depression: A Pilot Case Series

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2017 - Fathimath Rifshana - Doctor of Clinical Psychology
    The Lived Experience of Parents Caring for a Child with Type 1 Diabetes

CoSupervisor of:

  • 2016 - Barbara Mary Horrell - PhD
    Exploring informal caregivers' health needs from a capability perspective

Media and Links


  • 29 Apr 2014 - Online
    Pressure for independence in old age can be disabl
    Media release of my research on older people.

Other Links

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey