Associations of genetics, behaviors, and life course circumstances with a novel aging and healthspan measure: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleAssociations of genetics, behaviors, and life course circumstances with a novel aging and healthspan measure: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLiu, Z, Chen, X, Gill, TM, Ma, C, Crimmins, EM, Levine, ME
JournalPLoS Medicine
ISSN Number1549-1676
KeywordsGenetics, Health Behavior, Life trajectories

BACKGROUND: An individual's rate of aging directly influences his/her susceptibility to morbidity and mortality. Thus, quantifying aging and disentangling how various factors coalesce to produce between-person differences in the rate of aging, have important implications for potential interventions. We recently developed and validated a novel multi-system-based aging measure, Phenotypic Age (PhenoAge), which has been shown to capture mortality and morbidity risk in the full US population and diverse subpopulations. The aim of this study was to evaluate associations between PhenoAge and a comprehensive set of factors, including genetic scores, childhood and adulthood circumstances, and health behaviors, to determine the relative contributions of these factors to variance in this aging measure.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: Based on data from 2,339 adults (aged 51+ years, mean age 69.4 years, 56% female, and 93.9% non-Hispanic white) from the US Health and Retirement Study, we calculated PhenoAge and evaluated the multivariable associations for a comprehensive set of factors using 2 innovative approaches-Shapley value decomposition (the Shapley approach hereafter) and hierarchical clustering. The Shapley approach revealed that together all 11 study domains (4 childhood and adulthood circumstances domains, 5 polygenic score [PGS] domains, and 1 behavior domain, and 1 demographic domain) accounted for 29.2% (bootstrap standard error = 0.003) of variance in PhenoAge after adjustment for chronological age. Behaviors exhibited the greatest contribution to PhenoAge (9.2%), closely followed by adulthood adversity, which was suggested to contribute 9.0% of the variance in PhenoAge. Collectively, the PGSs contributed 3.8% of the variance in PhenoAge (after accounting for chronological age). Next, using hierarchical clustering, we identified 6 distinct subpopulations based on the 4 childhood and adulthood circumstances domains. Two of these subpopulations stood out as disadvantaged, exhibiting significantly higher PhenoAges on average. Finally, we observed a significant gene-by-environment interaction between a previously validated PGS for coronary artery disease and the seemingly most disadvantaged subpopulation, suggesting a multiplicative effect of adverse life course circumstances coupled with genetic risk on phenotypic aging. The main limitations of this study were the retrospective nature of self-reported circumstances, leading to possible recall biases, and the unrepresentative racial/ethnic makeup of the population.

CONCLUSIONS: In a sample of US older adults, genetic, behavioral, and socioenvironmental circumstances during childhood and adulthood account for about 30% of differences in phenotypic aging. Our results also suggest that the detrimental effects of disadvantaged life course circumstances for health and aging may be further exacerbated among persons with genetic predisposition to coronary artery disease. Finally, our finding that behaviors had the largest contribution to PhenoAge highlights a potential policy target. Nevertheless, further validation of these findings and identification of causal links are greatly needed.

User Guide Notes

Alternate JournalPLoS Med.
Citation Key10119
PubMed ID31211779
PubMed Central IDPMC6581243
Grant ListK01 AG053408 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG060110 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
UL1 TR001863 / TR / NCATS NIH HHS / United States
K07 AG043587 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
P30 AG021342 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R00 AG052604 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R03 AG048920 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States