Insights from longest-running study of ageing released in new book

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Researchers from Massey's Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) are releasing a book of the findings to date on 7 June.

HART co-leaders Professor Christine Stephens (left) and Professor Fiona Alpass.

Last updated: Tuesday 6 June 2023

The New Zealand Health, Work and Retirement Study (NZHWR) is the longest running longitudinal study of ageing in Aotearoa New Zealand. The study, which has followed the same groups of people (aged between 55 and 90) across 18 years, focuses on factors that impact the health and wellbeing of older adults, while also exploring significant events.

On 7 June, researchers from Massey University’s Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) will launch a new book of the study's findings at the Wharewaka Function Centre in Wellington.

The book, Ageing in Aotearoa: The New Zealand Health, Work and Retirement Study, describes the results of the longitudinal study. It provides an accessible summary of the findings, including illustrations.

Co-leader of HART Professor Christine Stephens says, “The ability to follow people across time has provided powerful evidence for the effects of lifelong circumstances and environmental conditions on loneliness, mental health, physical health and quality of life.”

Ageing in Aotearoa also includes a foreword by Sir Michael Marmot, an internationally renowned epidemiologist who says: “This NZHWR study, with its perspective, rich longitudinal data and insightful case histories makes a welcome contribution to a growing movement to address the social determinants of health.”

Such a study depends on the willingness of over 4000 NZHWR participants to contribute their personal information for the sake of developing this knowledge. HART members Professor Stephens, Professor Fiona Alpass, Associate Professor Susanne Röhr, Dr Rosemary Gibson, Dr Brendan Stevenson, Associate Professor Polly Yeung and Associate Professor Andy Towers acknowledge and thank the survey and interview participants for making this work possible by giving their time, patience and interest.

The book also includes stories from some of the NZHWR participants, as well as participants' artwork. Awards will be presented to three art competition winners at the book launch.

Artwork by NZHWR participant Grant Finch.

The book launch event will features keynote speeches by international and nationally renowned leaders in health and ageing research, including Professor Perminder Sachdev (University of New South Wales, Australia), Associate Professor Martin Hyde (Swansea University, United Kingdom) and Associate Professor Siautu Alefaio-Tugia of Massey University.

In addition, Sir Michael Marmot and Minister for Seniors Hon Ginny Anderson have provided videoed speeches to mark the event.

The launch will include a focus on the most recent NZHWR study of older workers.

Professor Fiona Alpass, co-leader of HART, says, “While the ageing of the workforce is often conceptualised as a problem, there are opportunities and benefits to all of society in maximising the participation of older New Zealanders in the workforce. The skills and knowledge of older workers have both economic and psychological benefits to society.”

A number of successful senior entrepreneurs will speak about their experiences and the benefits of targeted policy developments at the event.

Among the notable attendees will be Dr Judith Davey (MNZM), Dr Verna Schofield, Emeritus Professor Dame Peggy Koopman Boyden (DNZM) and Dr Sally Keeling (MNZM) who have all been honoured for their pioneering contributions to research on ageing in New Zealand and are recognised for their generous support of HART in its earliest stages.

E-copies of the book may be accessed for free here from 7 June.

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