The Dunedin Study - DMHDRU

Richie Poulton

Tēnā koutou/Hello to you all,

We write with very sad news. Richie Poulton, our much loved, recently retired Director, passed away on Friday 29th of September.

Everyone had hoped for a longer retirement for Richie, but that was not to be. He started this year with a bucket list journey to Antarctica, which he described as magnificent. He just recently returned from Africa to be part of the nature there that he so loved. This trip included a hot air balloon ride, which is incredible considering that he was ill at the time. But that was Richie’s character - to seek out experiences and connections with the world until the last.

We know that he will be missed by, the Study members, and the team here that has worked with him – in some cases for decades. And missed as well as by those he has worked with in government, charity organisations, and in the community.

But most of all, of course, he will be missed by wife Sandhya, who is also our Research Manager, his daughter Priyanka, and his wider family. Together they have been working so hard to ensure that Richie was able to live his very best life as he endured this disease.

Richie was dedicated to the Dunedin Study and to using the gift that the Study members gave for the betterment of all New Zealanders.

Kua hinga te tōtara i Te Waonui-a-Tāne - A mighty totara has fallen in the great forest of Tāne.

The Dunedin Study Team



Professor Richie Poulton, CNZM FRSNZ

(1961 - 2023)

Professor Richie Poulton, CNZM FRSNZ

MSc PGDipClPs (Otago) PhD (NSW)

Late Emeritus Distinguished Professor and Director

After completing his Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology and Masters Degree in Science from the University of Otago, Richie worked as a clinical psychologist before embarking on a PhD. In 1995 he was awarded a PhD in Psychiatry from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. In the same year, he took up the position of Deputy Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit until 1 January 2000, when he became Director.

In 2006, Richie was appointed Research Professor and awarded a Personal Chair by the University of Otago in the Dunedin School of Medicine. In 2014, Richie was appointed as inaugural Chief Science Advisor to the NZ Ministry of Social Development (part-time) and in 2018 Chief Science Advisor, Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, both roles he performed until July 2021 in addition to his other duties. In 2015, he became Professor in the Department of Psychology. 

Richie established (in 2007) and became co-director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research, a research centre based at the University of Otago in Dunedin, but with partners located at universities across New Zealand and around the world. He also founded (in 2011) and directed the Graduate Longitudinal Study, New Zealand, a study of outcomes of graduates from eight New Zealand universities. He continues to co-direct this study.

Richie serves on many NZ government, public and academic statutory bodies, and is a consultant internationally.His major areas of interest and research are developmental psychopathology, gene X environment prediction of complex disorders, and psychosocial determinants of chronic physical disease.  He has published 250+ peer-reviewed scientific papers, with many appearing in leading international journals, and he maintains numerous international research collaborations.


In 2004, he was awarded the New Zealand Association of Scientist’s Research Medal and the Health Research Council of New Zealand’s (inaugural) Liley Medal for Excellence in Health Research. In 2005, he was awarded the University of Otago’s Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal for Outstanding Early Career Achievement, and also received the Dunedin School of Medicine Distinguished Research Award. In 2010, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was the joint recipient of the RSNZ Dame Joan Metge Medal for  "excellence and building relationships in the social science research community". In 2014, he was awarded the Dunedin School of Medicine Dean’s Medal for Research Excellence.

In 2014, he was named as a Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson-Reuters (one of only four New Zealanders so designated) and again in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He was also listed in 2014 and 2015 World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds, Thomson-Reuters.

In 2016, he was the recipient of the Health Research Council of New Zealand's Research Excellence Award. The Dunedin Study was the recipient for the University of Otago's Research Group Award in 2016. 

The Prime Minister's Science Prize in 2016 was awarded to the Dunedin Mulitdisciplinary Health and Development team, led by Professor Richie Poulton.

Richie was appointed Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2017.

Rutherford medal recipient 2022 Presented by the Royal society to the Dunedin Study Team.

Posthumously awarded the New Zealand Association of Scientists 2023 Marsden Medal for a lifetime of Science achievement.