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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.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
Identifying twins for a population-based register can be achieved through birth records or community surveys. We studied the feasibility and effectiveness of different methods of identifying and recruiting twins to establish a population based register. To trace twins a population survey was carried out using an interviewer administered questionnaire. We also inspected the birth registration certificates at a divisional secretariat reported from a specified hospital between the years of 1985–1997 and compared it to the birth register of this same hospital. To recruit twins a random sample of 75 twin pairs (150 twins) identified at the Divisional Secretariat were contacted through the post and 25 twin pairs (50 twins) were personally visited. The prevalence of twins was 6.5 twins per 1000 people in the area surveyed. The twinning rate at the hospital was 18.92 twins per 1000 births. A discrepancy of 38 multiples births between the hospital labour room records and those registered at the DS was noted. The response from the postal invitation for recruitment was 59% and the response from the personal invitation was 68%. (Difference 9.4% 95% CI; 7.06–11.73). Community survey and systematic inspection of birth records either at the hospital or the birth registration office was an effective method to trace twins. Once traced, personal contact was more effective than the postal invitation for recruitment of younger twins. A cost-effective approach would be to use a postal coverage followed by personal contact for non-responders. The alternative method, community coverage, would have financial implications.
Background: Somatic symptoms often co-occur with psychological symptoms but this overlap is poorly understood. Some aspects of this overlap differ in the South Asian context, but it is not clear whether this is a reporting effect or an underlying difference in experienced illness. Methods: Home interviews were administered to 4,024 twins randomly selected from a population-based twin register in the Colombo district of Sri Lanka (the CoTASS study). These included assessments of psychological, somatic and fatigue symptoms. The data were analyzed using factor analytic and quantitative genetic approaches. Results: Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the symptoms from the three scales represented three separate dimensions, rather than all tapping into a single dimension. However, familial correlations among the data were most consistent with a common pathway model. This implies that a portion of the underlying vulnerability is common across psychological, fatigue and somatic symptoms. There were sex differences in the etiology of this model, with shared environmental and genetic influences playing different roles in men and women. Conclusions: There is a complex etiological relationship between psychological, fatigue and somatic symptoms. This is similar in Sri Lanka to Western countries, but there may be a greater influence from the family environment, suggesting that care needs to be taken when generalizing research findings between countries. People who complain of certain fatigue or somatic symptoms may well also have psychological symptoms, or may have genetic or environmental vulnerabilities to such problems.
The National Twin Registry of Sri Lanka was established in 1997 as a volunteer register. To extend it to a population-based register, we examined the effectiveness of tracing older twins by inspecting birth records and recruiting them by postal invitation and in-person contact. Birth records at a divisional secretariat reported from 2 maternity hospitals between the years of 1954–1970 were scrutinised to identify a random sample of twins. These hospitals had the highest twin delivery rates for the whole country. We identified 620 twins and a questionnaire was mailed to them. Research assistants visited a cohort of non-respondents (71) in the postal survey. These 620 twins were identified after perusing 20,700 birth records. The twinning rate was estimated at 29.95 ([620/20700] × 1000) twins per 1000 registered births (CI 27.63–32.27). In the postal survey, 37 (12%) responded and 62 letters were returned (20%). Both twins were still alive in 20 pairs, one was still alive in 15 pairs, and both twins were dead in 2 pairs. During field visits, 42 (59.2%) addresses were located. Information was available on 16 twin pairs. Both twins were alive in 8 pairs, one each in 4 pairs, and both were dead in 4 pairs and at least one twin was traced in 10 pairs (14%). Both the postal and the field survey gave a low yield. This finding is different from tracing younger twins born between 1985–1997 by using the same methods. Migration, urbanization and development in the country might have affected tracing older twins from the birth record addresses, which were decades old.
Fatigue is a common symptom in Western high-income countries but is often medically unexplained and little is known about its presentation in other populations.
To explore the epidemiology and aetiology of fatigue in Sri Lanka, and of its overlap with depression.
A total of 4024 randomly selected twins from a population-based register in Sri Lanka (Colombo district) completed home interviews including the Chalder Fatigue Questionnaire.
The prevalence of fatigue was similar to that in other countries, although prolonged fatigue may be less common. There was substantial comorbidity with a screen for lifetime depression. Non-shared environmental factors made the largest contributions, although genetic/family factors also contributed. The aetiology appeared consistent across the spectrum of severity.
The aetiology of fatigue is broadly similar in Sri Lanka and Western high-income countries. Abnormal experiences of fatigue appear to be the extreme form of more common fatigue, rather than representing independent entities with different genetic or environmental risk factors.
Susceptibility to depression results from genetic and non-familially shared environmental influences in high-income, Western countries. Environments may play a different role for populations in different contexts.
To examine heritability of depression in the first large, population-based twin study in a low-income country.
Lifetime depression and a broader measure of depression susceptibility (D-probe) were assessed in 3908 adult twins in Sri Lanka (the CoTASS study).
There were gender differences for the broad definition (D-probe), with a higher genetic contribution in females (61%) than males (4%). Results were similar for depression, but the prevalence was too low to estimate heritability for males.
Genetic influences on depression in women appear to be at least as strong in this Sri Lankan sample as in higher-income countries. Conclusions are less clear for men but suggest a larger role for environments rather than genes. The nature as well as the magnitude of environmental influences may also differ across populations.
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