Genetic risks for chronic conditions: Implications for long-term wellbeing.

TitleGenetic risks for chronic conditions: Implications for long-term wellbeing.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWehby, GL, Domingue, BW, Wolinsky, FD
JournalJournals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences
ISSN Number1758-535X
KeywordsChronic conditions, Genetics, Well-being

Background: Relationships between genetic risks for chronic diseases and long-run wellbeing are largely unexplored. We examined the associations between genetic predispositions to several chronic conditions and long-term functional health and socioeconomic status (SES).

Methods: We used data on a nationally representative sample of 9,317 adults aged 65 years or older from the 1992 to 2012 Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) in the US. Survey data were linked to genetic data on nearly 2 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We measured individual-level genetic predispositions for coronary-artery disease, type 2 diabetes (T2D), obesity, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Alzheimer's disease, and major depressive disorder (MDD) by polygenic risk scores (PRS) derived from genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The outcomes were self-rated health, depressive symptoms, cognitive ability, activities of everyday life, educational attainment, and wealth. We employed regression analyses for the outcomes including all polygenic scores and adjusting for gender, birth period, and genetic ancestry.

Results: The polygenic scores had important associations with functional health and SES. An increase in genetic risk for all conditions except T2D was significantly (p < .01) associated with reduced functional health and socioeconomic outcomes. The magnitudes of functional health declines were meaningful and in many cases equivalent in magnitude to several years of aging. These associations were robust to several sensitivity checks for ancestry and adjustment for parental educational attainment and age at death or the last interview if alive.

Conclusion: Stronger genetic predispositions for leading chronic conditions are related to worse long-run health and SES outcomes, likely reflecting the adverse effects of the onset of these conditions on one's wellbeing.

User Guide Notes

Alternate JournalJ. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci.
Citation Key10039
PubMed ID28958056
PubMed Central IDPMC5861924
Grant ListRC2 AG036495 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
RC4 AG039029 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States