Partners in Health: Investigating Social Genetic Effects Among Married and Cohabiting Couples.

TitlePartners in Health: Investigating Social Genetic Effects Among Married and Cohabiting Couples.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsOtten, K, Mandemakers, JJ
JournalBehav Genet
ISSN Number1573-3297
KeywordsFamily Characteristics, Health Behavior, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Marriage, Spouses

Partners resemble each other in health behaviors and outcomes such as alcohol use, smoking, physical activity, and obesity. While this is consistent with social contagion theory suggesting partner influence, it is notoriously difficult to establish causality because of assortative mating and contextual confounding. We offer a novel approach to studying social contagion in health in long-term partnerships by combining genetic data of both partners in married/cohabiting couples with longitudinal data on their health behaviors and outcomes. We examine the influence of the partner's genetic predisposition for three health outcomes and behaviors (BMI, smoking, and drinking) among married/cohabiting couples. We use longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing with data on health outcomes and genotypes for both partners. Results show that changes over time in BMI, smoking, and drinking depend on the partner's genetic predispositions to these traits. These findings underline the importance of people's social surroundings for their health and highlight the potential of targeting health interventions at couples.

Citation Key13326
PubMed ID37284978
PubMed Central IDPMC10276063
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