Jeong, Yeongmi (2023). The Effect of Peers' Genetic Predisposition to Depression on Own Mental Health. 12th Annual Conference of the American Society of Health Economists.
St. Louis, MO.
This paper studies how peers’ genetic predisposition to depression affects own mental health during adolescence and early adulthood using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). I exploit variation within schools and across grades in same-gender grademates' average polygenic score - a linear index of genetic variants- for major depressive disorder (the MDD score). An increase in peers' genetic risk for depression has immediate negative impacts on own mental health. A one standard deviation increase in same-gender grademates' average MDD score significantly increases the probability of being depressed by 2.3 and 3 percentage points for adolescent girls (an 8.7% increase) and boys (a 20% increase), respectively. The effects persist into adulthood for females, but not males. I explore several potential mechanisms underlying the effects and find that an increase in peers' genetic risk for depression in adolescence worsens friendship, increases substance use, and leads to lower socioeconomic status. These effects are stronger for females than males. Overall, the results suggest there are important social-genetic effects in the context of mental health.
12th Annual Conference of the American Society of Health Economists
City of Publication
St. Louis, MO