January 25, 2019

Nature Genetics publishes two genetic studies using Add Health data

Posted January 25, 2019

Add Health genetic data is used in two recent studies which exemplify the growing field of sociogenomics.

The first study by Karlsson Linnér et al. focuses on genetic variants (differences in genes across individuals) that are associated with risky behaviors and risk tolerance, or willingness to take risks. Through genome wide association studies (GWAS), the authors not only found 124 gene variants associated with risk tolerance, but also failed to find evidence that supported biological pathways that previous research linked to risk tolerance.

These GWAS results allow the creation of polygenic scores of general risk tolerance. “I expect it to be useful in social science studies,” Jonathan Beauchamp, corresponding author, told University of Toronto news staff. “For instance, the score can be used to study how genetic factors interact with environmental variables to affect risk tolerance and risky behaviors.”

The second study by Liu et al. found 566 genetic variants associated with tobacco and alcohol use. Specifically, these genetic variants were related to five characteristics: the age when a respondent began smoking, the number of cigarettes smoked per day, smoking regularly, if the respondent ever quit smoking, and number of alcoholic drinks per week. Scott Vrieze, a researcher on the project, said “We hope the results drive research on how these genes affect addiction and, ultimately, inform treatment development.”

Both articles were featured in University newspapers:


Karlsson Linnér, R., Biroli, P., Kong, E., Meddens, S. F. W., Wedow, R., Fontana, M. A., . . . Social Science Genetic Association, C. (2019). Genome-wide association analyses of risk tolerance and risky behaviors in over 1 million individuals identify hundreds of loci and shared genetic influences. Nature Genetics. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0309-3

Liu, M., Jiang, Y., Wedow, R., Li, Y., Brazel, D. M., Chen, F., . . . Psychiatry, H. A.-I. (2019). Association studies of up to 1.2 million individuals yield new insights into the genetic etiology of tobacco and alcohol use. Nature Genetics. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0307-5