The Dunedin, New Zealand Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study is regarded as one of the most intense and consequential investigations into human development ever undertaken.

The team of researchers began collecting data in the early 1970s on more than 1,000 people from birth onward. It has provided fodder for hundreds of academic papers and has led to some of the most important insights in behavioural science in the past 50 years.

One of the areas the researchers tested was the students’ ability to pay attention and ignore distractions as the subjects navigated elementary school. Years later they compared the results against where the students ended up in their early 30s. What they discovered was a child’s self-control, including his or her ability to concentrate, was the strongest predictor of future success – more important, even, than IQ and the socio-economic status of the child’s family.

Devices divert attention yet there is no consensus in the education community on the issue. Are smartphones permitted when, for example, students are playing basketball, soccer, field hockey, rugby, doing gymnastics, attending choir or dance practice?

Connections between cannabis use and health

One of the study’s most publicized set of findings shows how longitudinal research can be utilized by both sides in an argument about social policy. Spurred by the legalization of marijuana sales in the US and Europe, researchers looked into the study’s data to see how weed affected lives.

Among daily users of marijuana, they found relationship issues as frequently as in people experiencing alcoholism; a decline in cognitive function and a decline in IQ; when used in adolescence, an increased risk of later psychosis; and a direct link between cannabis use and periodontal disease.

They also found that, unlike tobacco users, marijuana users tended to stay healthy into midlife. Also, researchers noted, “lost in the hyperbole” of the subsequent debate about the findings was the fact that these effects only occurred among those who smoked marijuana daily; more infrequent users suffered essentially none of these effects.

For more detail visit Dunedin, New Zealand Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.