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Journal Article

Educational influences on late-life health: Genetic propensity and attained education


Mosing,  Miriam A.       
Department of Cognitive Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet;

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Ericsson, M., Finch, B., Karlsson, I. K., Gatz, M., Reynolds, C. A., Pedersen, N. L., et al. (2024). Educational influences on late-life health: Genetic propensity and attained education. Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 79(1): gbad153. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbad153.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-DFDB-2
The educational gradient in late-life health is well established. Despite this, there are still ambiguities concerning the role of underlying confounding by genetic influences and gene-environment (GE) interplay. Here we investigate the role of educational factors (attained and genetic propensities) on health and mortality in late life using genetic propensity for educational attainment (as measured by a genome-wide polygenic score, PGSEdu) and attained education.

By utilizing genetically informative twin data from the Swedish Twin Registry (n=14,570), we investigated influences of the educational measures, familial confounding as well as the possible presence of passive gene-environment correlation on both objective and subjective indicators of late-life health, i.e., the Frailty Index, Multimorbidity, Self-rated health, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality.

Using between-within models to adjust for shared familial factors, we found that the relationship between educational level and health and mortality later in life persisted despite controlling for familial confounding. PGSEdu and attained education both uniquely predicted late-life health and mortality, even when mutually adjusted. Between-within models of PGSEdu on the health outcomes in dizygotic twins, showed weak evidence for passive gene-environment correlation (prGE) in the education-health relationship.

Both genetic propensity to education and attained education are (partly) independently associated with health in late life. These results lend further support for a causal education-health relationship but also raise the importance of genetic contributions and GE interplay.