Thursday, 5 June 2014

June's Featured Researcher - Dr Rosanne Freak- Poli

 A passion for epidemiology led Monash University, department of epidemiology and preventive medicine researcher Dr Rosanne Freak-Poli to investigate the relationship between happiness, health and productivity.

The associations between happiness and health are particularly important today as both the maximum and average lifespan continue to increase. The ageing population paradigm presents challenges and the current focus of health prevention strategies has shifted from increasing life expectancy to increasing the number of years lived in good health.

“Researchers have reported that happiness may benefit health and delay death, however, currently there is limited research,” said Dr Freak-Poli, an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow undertaking her project at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Importantly, the Rotterdam study will allow Dr Freak-Poli to investigate the relationship between happiness and health in a database that has measurements collected at three time points in the same 10,000 people over 15 years.
“I’m using my prior knowledge of epidemiological theory, statistical methodology and human psychology to give a comprehensive picture of the relationship between happiness, morbidity and mortality,” said Dr Freak-Poli. While it is already known that happier people tend to live longer, there is no data showing how happiness affects specific diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“My research will internationally progress the field of happiness,” added Dr Freak-Poli. “If happiness does benefit health and delay death, my research will inform the development of targeted interventions aimed at increasing happiness.”

An increase in happiness has benefits within many contexts and life stages.“There is certainly an association between the happiest countries and higher income countries,” said Dr Freak-Poli, “but there are also associations with a higher degree of social equality, trust and quality of governance.”

“On an individual level it is about well-being and there is an association between happiness and being healthier and more successful in marriage, friendship, income and work performance.”

After completing her two year project in Rotterdam, Dr Freak-Poli will return to Monash University where she will continue to use her longitudinal statistical analytical skills to assess the relationship between happiness and health in the Australian population. This will include the analysis of 15,000 people who are participating in the ASPREE project conducted through the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

In the spirit of her research topic, Dr Freak-Poli has acclimatised well to her new environment.
“I’m very happy with my recently purchased bicycles, and am enjoying the local Gouda cheese,” she reported. “I’m also admiring Vincent van Gogh’s work and have become addicted to a Dutch biscuit called speculaas.”

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