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Lifespan and ageing

Improving health throughout life
From antenatal to geriatric and palliative care, our researchers work across the full spectrum of human life to improve health and healthcare services at some of our most vulnerable stages.

Lifespan and ageing research at the Faculty of Medicine and Health brings together clinicians and researchers working in diverse fields from the very first stages of life to the end of life. We investigate health across the course of life as well as trajectory effects from one development life stage to the next.

The lifespan and ageing theme encompasses research focused on the fundamental science of human development, as well as studies that take a ‘whole-of-life approach’ to health research, exploring impacts on personal health and healthspan in a wider context of lifestyle, society and environment.

While conditions of ageing are the leading cause of death in Australia, each stage of life presents opportunities for interventions that save lives, establish healthy behaviours, and ensure age-appropriate management of chronic illness. Our multidisciplinary approach leads to research that improves outcomes at some of the most vulnerable stages of life.

Areas undertaking research in this theme

The Faculty of Medicine and Health undertakes multidisciplinary research in lifespan and ageing across our unique network of schools, centres and facilities. 

The Faculty of Health Sciences' research into lifespan and ageing aims to promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing, across the lifespan.  Multidisciplinary teams focus on sub-themes in ageing and health, climate change and vulnerability, exercise, health and performance, living well with chronic disease, neurological rehabilitation, sports injury, sports performance and activity promotion, and work and health.

Our research has been cited in numerous national and international practice guidelines and policy documents. By translating our research, we are changing lifestyles and practices of the general public, athletes, people living with chronic diseases, older people with co-morbidities, healthcare practitioners and healthcare organisations.

Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Lifespan oral health

Poor oral health can have negative effects on diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dementia and pregnancy outcomes. We're conducting ongoing research to further understand these links.

Research lead

Professor Eberhard has set his sights on establishing a world-class research centre dedicated to improving oral health and unravelling connections between poor oral health and major health issues. 

A $3.6 million donation by the Abrahams family through their Rosebrook Foundation was the catalyst for the plan to establish the inaugural Chair of Lifespan Oral Health, along with an ambitious drive for a $20 million research centre spearheading research, policy, advocacy and education initiatives to prevent and reduce chronic diseases caused by poor oral health. Still in development, the new Research Centre in Lifespan Oral Health is solely devoted to investigating aspects of preventable dental disease and the links to overall health.

Ageing well, ageing productively

Sydney Dental School conducts research in this area under a number of sub-themes:

  • Wound healing
  • Biomaterials and biomechanics
  • Jaw function and orofacial pain
  • Orthodontics
  • Environment oral health
  • Education research
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney Dental School.

Research highlights
  • An NHMRC grant worth $2.5 million was awarded to Professor Kate Conigrave to lead a Centre for Research Excellence in Indigenous Health to build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capacity and progress solutions to alcohol-related health problems.
  • A global collaboration involving Sydney Medical School researchers established that low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy for at-risk mothers.
  • A major randomised trial involving University of Sydney researchers established the benefits of blood pressure lowering for the prevention of recurrent stroke, irrespective of the presence or absence of hypertension.
  • The first systematic international review of childhood vaccinations led by researchers from the University of Sydney found no evidence of a link to the development of autism or autism spectrum disorders.
  • Professor Elizabeth Elliott’s research into Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) has included studies on the incidence of FASD; knowledge and attitudes of health professionals and women regarding alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD; services and treatments; birth defects associated with alcohol exposure in utero; and evaluation of educational materials for health professionals and communities.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney Medical School.

The School of Medical Sciences conducts research in this area through its laboratories within the Bosch Institute. Our research in lifespan and ageing covers multiple life stages, and includes research into diseases that disproportionately affect the very old or very young, and methods to address the critical shortage of organs and tissues for transplantation.

Learn more about research at the School of Medical Sciences.

As Australia’s population ages, the role of nurses specialised in lifestyle and chronic disease management will become more important than ever.

Sydney Nursing School researchers collaborate with the Charles Perkins Centre as part of a multidisciplinary team that shares a determination to ease the burden of chronic disease and ageing in Australia.

Initiatives
  • Helping people living with dementia become more independent.
  • Stroke prevention research.
Key researcher
  • Professor Yun-Hee Jeon, Susan and Isaac Wakil Professor of Health Ageing

Learn more about research at the Sydney Nursing School.

The population ageing research program at the Sydney School of Public Health brings together a multidisciplinary team to improve the quality of life for older people. Much of the research is based on data collected in the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project (CHAMP), which involved 1700 men aged 70 years and older. We are currently working to extend this program to examine the psychosocial and economic aspects of an ageing workforce, retirement and old age.

Highlights
  • The CHAMP study showed that most older men in Australia remain independent and free of geriatric syndromes (including dementia, falls, impaired mobility and incontinence) until they are well into their 80s.
  • As reported in multiple papers in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the CHAMP study found that low testosterone levels are not a cause of poor health in older men.
  • Multiple large-scale collaborative trials tested the impact of exercise and other interventions on falls and mobility in older adults.
  • Professor Robert Cumming was named a 2016 Highly Cited Researcher, one of just 120 Australians from across all scientific disciplines to receive this award.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney School of Public Health.

Centres, institutes and groups

  • ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research
    The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research is a unique collaboration between academia, government and industry, committed to delivering solutions to one of the major economic and social challenges of the 21st century.
  • Centre of Research Excellence in Medicines and Ageing
    This multidisciplinary centre will generate vital information about the role that medicines play over Australians’ lifetimes. Using large linked databases of routinely collected medicines and other health information, it will produce much-needed quantitative evidence on the real-world use, harms, costs and cost-effectiveness of specific medicines.
  • Centre for Education and Research on Ageing
    We aim to expand and share knowledge of human ageing through collaborative multidisciplinary research and education to promote health ageing, minimise the impact of disease and disability on older people, and improve the overall quality of life of our older population. 
  • Centre of Research Excellence in Adolescent Health
    The centre is an Australia-wide network of researchers committed to driving progress in the wellbeing and health of young people. Through Wellbeing Health & Youth (WH&Y) we are drawing together a collective of researchers, clinicians, policy makers, health administrators and youth advocates to collaborate with young people on the development of health services that really work.
  • Lifespan Research Network
    This network connects a growing community of researchers through the lifespan and ageing theme. It promotes a whole-of-life approach to health research and advocates projects that address knowledge gaps in under-researched life stages and disadvantaged populations. The network engages and supports members with events, activities, awards and grants that champion and facilitate collaborative, multidisciplinary lifespan research.