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Shortly after receiving tenure in 2009, I hit a brick wall. Having poured so much energy into the tenure process, which included a large-scale book project, I found myself intellectually and emotionally spent. Uninspired and unable to gain traction with another major research project during my post-tenure sabbatical, I felt I was wandering through a desert. I had heard rumors about the “post-tenure blues,” but I somehow imagined myself immune.
This study examines the heritability of cigarette smoking, alcohol, and coffee consumption in 4,960 adult, male twin pairs (2,390 MZ and 2,570 DZ pairs) participants in an epidemiologic survey of the NAS-NRC Twin Registry conducted in the USA during 1972-73. Heritability estimates for smoking, alcohol and coffee use were calculated both before and after adjustment for shared variance between these behaviors and other demographic characteristics including socioeconomic status and an occupational adjustment score. The objective of the analysis was to determine the impact of adjustment for covariates on heritability estimates of smoking, alcohol and coffee use. Before adjustment, genetic effects in smoking, alcohol and coffee use accounted for 53%, 36%, and 45% of the variance, respectively. After adjustment, the corresponding estimates were 35%, 29%, and 36%. The fact that these estimates remained significant after adjustment for covariates leads to increased confidence about the role of genetic factors in substance use behaviors.
The NHLBI Twin Study is a longitudinal study of cardiovascular disease risk factors in 514 pairs of white, middle aged, male, veteran twins. The initial examination took place between 1969-1973. Ten years later, 81% of the living cohort returned for a second examination. Data collected up to 30 years prior to recruitment for the initial examination were used to characterize participants and nonparticipants; data from the initial examination were used to characterize returnees and nonreturnees to the second examination. Participants had significantly lower diastolic blood pressure and higher socioeconomic status than nonparticipants as measured thirty years earlier. Between the first and second examinations, the mortality of participants was less than 50% of the mortality of nonparticipants. Returnees to the second examination had a better health profile at the initial examination than nonreturnees, with significantly lower levels of cigarette smoking, glucose intolerance, hypertension, and diabetes and higher levels of pulmonary function. However, returnees were more obese than nonreturnees. Thus, this study of cardiovascular disease risk factors in twins appears to be affected by response bias in a way similar to studies of individuals. Additional analyses of biases that may affect the genetic component of the study indicated that factors related to classical twin analyses were relatively unaffected by selection.
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