Growing Up in New Zealand’s rangatahi Māori research

Initiative type:
Public Health
UniServices Contact:


Māori clearly face health inequities. The proof? Māori life expectancy at birth is more than seven years shorter than for non-Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What is unknown is what causes those inequities, when they start to affect people’s lives, and what can be done to eliminate them.

Many studies focus on specific health issues but most fail to take a holistic look at participants’ lives or only examine a particular snapshot in time. While longitudinal studies have been done, these have typically been small and failed to adequately represent the diversity of the population.


image across 2 cols

From foetal development to young adulthood

In its size and scope, Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) is unlike any other study ever done in New Zealand. The government-funded, UniServices-managed research project has been following the lives of more than 6,000 children, including some 1,200 tamariki Māori, since their pregnant mothers volunteered for the study in 2009. It plans to continue until the children are 21.

“Growing Up in New Zealand is an important study for Aotearoa, with the Māori cohort alone representing the largest longitudinal study of Māori wellbeing this country has ever seen,” says Research Director Dr Sarah-Jane Paine (Tūhoe). “That makes it an important opportunity for researchers, community advocates, policymakers, iwi, hapū and other stakeholders to gain evidence and insights that can help all of us take action against the longstanding and terrible inequities we see in child and youth wellbeing, particularly for Māori.”

right image
Research Director Dr Sarah-Jane Paine
Harakeke and island
“Growing Up in New Zealand is an important study for Aotearoa, with the Māori cohort alone representing the largest longitudinal study of Māori wellbeing this country has ever seen.”
Sarah-Jane Paine
Research Director

The study has already uncovered plenty of evidence of inequities, including socioeconomic disadvantage in the early years. By age eight, the study found, Māori and Pacific children experienced poorer mental health. To connect the dots to where negative mental health outcomes begin, a piece of GUiNZ research is now examining whether different experiences, such as poverty in early life, lead to poor mental wellbeing later in life.

To maintain the study’s unique diversity, significant effort is being made to ensure that families can participate and see the value in staying involved. This has included making questionnaires available in te reo Māori and ensuring Māori interviewers engaged with whānau Māori.

right image



Growing Up in New Zealand, conceived of as a partnership between researchers and policymakers, has already resulted in steps to improve community wellbeing.

For example, GUiNZ evidence was important in legislation passed in 2021 requiring non-organic bread-making wheat flour to be fortified with folic acid to prevent neural tube birth defects, which are more common in tamariki Māori.

Researchers using GUiNZ data have uncovered not only inequities facing tamariki Māori but also possible solutions. For example, one study found that for the recommended six months. Other work found that for children who identified as Māori, significantly enhanced learning.

GUiNZ research is regularly cited in the media and is an important contributor to the continuing conversation about tamariki and whānau wellbeing.

Learn more about how UniServices translates research into community impact