“Tall, Active and Well Made”? Maori and Pakeha Health Inequalities in Long-Term Perspective

Kris Inwood, University of Guelph
Les Oxley, University of Waikato
Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota

Although colonization is widely argued to negatively impact indigenous peoples' health, there is often limited quantitative evidence about indigenous health during colonization. This paper provides new evidence on the health impacts of colonization by developing a unique long-term dataset of stature and body mass for both New Zealand's indigenous Maori and colonial settlers since the 18th century. Maori were tall at initial contact, and experienced little stature decline in the 19th century, despite significant population decline. Maori stature then declined significantly in the early 20th century. At the same time BMI profiles of Maori and European settlers diverged. The same cohorts of Maori then experienced significant cardiovascular disease after 1950. Thus, we argue that current patterns of New Zealand health inequality reflect Maori experience of industrial and urban development in the early twentieth century. Our results suggest the importance of both long-term and life-course perspectives in understanding ethnic health differentials.

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Presented in Poster Session 8: Adult Health and Mortality