|Title||Challenges in studying the interplay of genes and environment. A study of childhood financial distress moderating genetic predisposition for peak smoking|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2023|
|Authors||Bierut, L, Biroli, P, Galama, TJ, Thom, K|
|Journal||Journal of Economic Psychology|
|Keywords||G×E, Health Inequality, Polygenic index, Smoking|
Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the U.S., and it is strongly influenced both by genetic predisposition and childhood adversity. Using polygenic indices (PGIs) of predisposition to smoking, we evaluate whether childhood financial distress (CFD; a composite measure of financial adversity) moderates genetic risk in explaining peak-cigarette consumption in adulthood. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we find a substantial reduction in the relationship between genetic risk and peak smoking for those who did not suffer financial adversity in childhood. Among adult smokers who grew up in high-CFD households, a one standard deviation higher PGI is associated with 2.9 more cigarettes smoked per day at peak. By contrast, among smokers who grew up in low-CFD households, this gradient is reduced by 37 percent (or 1.1 fewer). These results are robust to controlling for a host of prime confounders. By contrast, we find no evidence of interactions between the PGI and typical measures of childhood SES such as parental education - a null result that we replicate in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA). This suggests the role of childhood financial distress in the relationship with peak smoking is distinct from that of low childhood SES, with high CFD potentially reflecting more acute distress than do measures of low childhood SES. Our evidence also suggests low childhood SES is a weaker proxy for acute distress, providing an alternative explanation for the childhood SES null result.