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Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
In our three-stage questionnaire study we investigated patterns of twin and familial aggregation of osteoarthritis (OA) for commonly affected joints. The baseline questionnaire study of the Finnish Twin Cohort was performed in 1975. In 1990, 4095 twin pairs of the same gender born 1930–1957 responded to a questionnaire and reported whether they had OA diagnosed by a physician. In 1996 both twins of 266 pairs of which at least one had reported OA in 1990 responded to a detailed questionnaire on joint-specific OA, including family history of OA. In male pairs shared (non-genetic) familial effects accounted for 37% of the total variance in liability to OA and unshared environmental effects for 63%. In female pairs additive gene effects explained 44% of the variance in liability to OA, and unshared environmental effects for 36%. Familial aggregation of finger and knee OA was clearly higher than that of hip OA. Twin-pair discordance for OA was, to some extent, associated with body-mass index, occupational loading and trauma. Our results indicate that genetic effects may be modulated by sex or by environmental factors distributed differently between men and women. Based on our joint-specific data finger and knee joints are the most optimal targets for studies of genetic factors predisposing to the development of OA.
In studies on the Finnish Twin Cohort, we investigate genetic and environmental determinants of common, complex diseases, and their behavioral risk factors in Finland, a genetically unique and culturally homogenous population. We have formed the following databases: 1) Like-sexed twin pairs (13,888 pairs of known zygosity) form the older Twin Cohort. They have participated since 1975 in mail surveys, in clinical examinations for subsamples, and have been followed-up for morbidity using national medical registers; 2) The older Twin Cohort was expanded in 1996 to include opposite-sex pairs born 1938–1957 (c. 8000 pairs); 3) Two, new longitudinal studies of adolescent twins and their families, form a complementary, ongoing study base described in more detail in an accompanying article. Genetic and environmental effects vary over the life-span, and only longitudinal studies in genetically informative data sets permits the evaluation of such effects. Finally, the inclusion of DNA-based genetic information in a phenotypically rich family data base will offer a unique resource for research in genetic epidemiology and behavioral medicine.
The aim of the present study was to examine the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to depressive symptoms among older women. The participants were 102 monozygotic and 115 dizygotic female twin pairs aged 64 to 76 years. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Center for the Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The contribution of genetic and environmental effects was estimated for the constructed depressiveness factor and for the subscales which were depressed mood, psychomotor retardation, lack of wellbeing and interpersonal difficulties. Of the variance in depressiveness, shared environmental influences accounted for 39% and nonshared environmental influences 61%. For the subscales, 24% to 62% of the variance was explained by individual, and 13% to 23% by shared, environmental factors. Lack of well-being had its own moderate additive genetic effect explaining 30% of the variance. This study showed that in older women predominantly environmental factors underlay individual differences in depressiveness; however, the factors varied to some extent between dimensions measured by the subscales.
We examined whether there are crosscultural differences in the magnitude of genetic and environmental contributions to risk of becoming a regular smoker and of persistence in smoking in men and women. Standard methods of epidemio-logic and genetic analysis were applied to questionnaire data on history of cigarette use obtained from large samples of male and female like-sex twins from three different countries: Australia (N = 2284 pairs), Sweden (N = 8651 pairs), and Finland (N = 10,948 pairs). Samples were subdivided into three age groups (AG), 18–25 years, 26–35 years, and 36–46 years of age. The magnitude of genetic influence for lifetime smoking was found to be consistent across country and AG for women (46%) and men (57%), and estimates of the contribution from environmental influences shared by twin and co-twin could be equated across all countries by AG for the women (from youngest to oldest AG: 45%, 35%, and 26%), but not for men, with separate estimates obtained for the Scandinavian (33%, 29%, and 19%) and the Australian men (26%, 9%, and 11%). There was no evidence for an important role for shared environmental influences on persistent smoking, and the genetic contribution was found to be consistent in magnitude in men and women, and the same acrosscountry and AG (52%). There are strong genetic influences on smoking behavior, and that risk of becoming a smoker (but not persistence in smoking) may be modified by experiences shared by twins that differ by AG and, at least for men, cultural background.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of severe disability and death in the world. In the present article we outline possibilities and limitations for future stroke research within the GenomEUtwin. The combined sample of twins born before 1958 from Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, and available for follow-up into the second millennium for non-fatal and fatal stroke events through national inpatient and death registers exceeds 70,000 twin pairs. This sample size will enable the study of genetic influences on stroke and major stroke subtypes. Large samples of twins in GenomEUtwin have been followed up repeatedly through interviews and questionnaires concerning a variety of exposures and potential risk factors for stroke. We briefly outline how this information can be combined with the health register information for epidemiologic and genetic epidemiologic studies of stroke. We also present the number of twin pairs concordant and discordant for stroke in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, and time lags between events for twins concordant for stroke. This information illustrates that the number of affected sib pairs for linkage studies is relatively limited, but the sample sizes are promising for association studies.
Previous studies have suggested that perinatal factors influence the risk for asthma but population studies on perinatal factors and risk for hay fever are few. We studied the effect of perinatal factors on the risk for hay fever among adolescent twins by a questionnaire study involving five consecutive nation-wide birth cohorts of 16-year-old twins and their parents. The risk for parent-reported, doctor-diagnosed hay fever in the adolescents associated with several perinatal characteristics was assessed with logistic regression analysis among individuals and by a discordant pair analysis. In the univariate analysis of the birth factors, the risk for hay fever increased with increasing birth weight (p for trend = 0.048, OR for those ≥ 3000g 1.35, 95% CI 0.91–2.02 compared to those < 2000g) and gestational age (p for trend = 0.04, OR for those born after 40 weeks of gestation 2.24, 95% CI 1.03–4.86, compared to those born before 33 weeks of gestation) and was lower in those subjects hospitalised in the neonatal period (OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.58–0.93). Because of significant interactions between parental hay fever status and birth factors (ponderal index, p = 0.03 and maternal age p = 0.04), stratified analysis were performed. The positive association between birth weight and hay fever was most obvious among adolescents with no parental history of hay fever (p for trend = 0.03). Similar, though not significant, trends were found with other birth factors among these families, whereas no such trend was found among adolescents with parental hay fever, suggesting that gestational maturity increases the risk for hay fever in the absence of genetic predisposition. However, of the perinatal factors only neonatal hospitalisation (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.59–0.96) remained a significant risk factor for the development of hay fever, when adjusted for non-perinatal factors.
We analyzed the association between mean height and old age cognition in two Nordic twin cohorts with different childhood living conditions. The cognitive performance of 4720 twin individuals from Denmark (mean age 81.6 years, SD = 4.59) and Finland (mean age 74.4 years, SD = 5.26) was measured using validated cognitive screens. Taller height was associated with better cognitive performance in Finland (β-estimates 0.18 SD/10cm, p value < .001, for men and 0.13 SD, p = .008, for women), but this association was not significant in Denmark (β-estimates 0.0093 SD, p value = .16, for men and 0.0075 SD, p value = .016, for women) when adjusted for age and education/social class. Among Finnish participants higher variability of cognitive performance within shorter height quintiles was observed. Analysis using gene-environment interaction models showed that environmental factors exerted a greater impact on cognitive performance in shorter participants, whereas in taller participants' it was explained mainly by genetic factors. Our results suggest that shorter participants with childhood adversity are more vulnerable to environmental risk factors for cognitive impairment.
We investigated the genetic component of noise sensitivity using a twin-study design. The study sample consisted of 573 same-sexed twin pairs from the Finnish Twin Cohort. The 131 monozygotic (MZ) and 442 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs with an age range of 31 to 88 years replied to a questionnaire on noise and health-related items in 1988. The noise sensitivity of respondents was defined as high, quite high, quite low or low. MZ pairs were more similar with regards noise sensitivity than DZ pairs, and quantitative genetic modeling indicated significant familiality. The best z-fitting genetic model provided an estimate of heritability of 36% (95% CI = .20–.50) and when hearing impaired subjects were excluded this rose to 40% (95% CI = .24–.54). In conclusion, noise sensitivity does aggregate in families and probably has a genetic component.
Background. Depression is associated with smoking, but the causality of the relationship is debated. The authors examine smoking behaviour as a predictor of depression among the Finnish adult twin population.
Method. Based on responses to surveys in 1975 and 1981, the authors characterized the subjects as never smokers, persistent former smokers, quitters, recurrent smokers and persistent smokers. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was applied in 1990 to measure depression (BDI score >9). Although the population consisted of twins, the authors first considered the subjects as individuals. Logistic regression models were computed for 4164 men and 4934 women. In order to control for family and genetic background, conditional logistic regression analyses were conducted among twin pairs discordant for depression. Bivariate genetic modelling was used to examine genetic and environmental components of the correlation between smoking and depression.
Results. Among the men, persistent smoking (OR 1·42, 95% CI 1·07–1·89) and smoking in 1975 but quitting by 1981 (OR 1·68, 95% CI 1·17–2·42) was associated with a higher risk of depression, while among the women only the quitters had an elevated risk (OR 1·38, 96% CI 1·01–1·87). The gender×smoking interaction showed persistent smoking to be a stronger risk for men. When family and genetic background were controlled, smoking remained a predictor of depression. Genetic modelling among the men suggested a modest correlation (rg=0·25) between genetic components of smoking and depression.
Conclusions. Smoking behaviour may be a gender-sensitive predictor of depression, the stronger association in men being partly accounted for by having underlying genes in common.
The application of multiway contingency table analysis to the multivariate analysis of concordance ratios in twin studies is developed. The approach is illustrated by data on smoking and alcohol use in Finland and Sweden. This approach can enable the assessment of the effect of other variables on the concordance ratio and thus allow estimates of genetic effects on the trait under study. Hypotheses on relationships between genetic effects and other variables can be tested. After hypothesis testing, model fitting of the best hypothesis can be carried out.
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