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This review offers an update on research conducted with FinnTwin12 (FT12), the youngest of the three Finnish Twin Cohorts. FT12 was designed as a two-stage study. In the first stage, we conducted multiwave questionnaire research enrolling all eligible twins born in Finland during 1983–1987 along with their biological parents. In stage 2, we intensively studied a subset of these twins with in-school assessments at age 12 and semistructured poly-diagnostic interviews at age 14. At baseline, parents of intensively studied twins were administered the adult version of the interview. Laboratory studies with repeat interviews, neuropsychological tests, and collection of DNA were made of intensively studied twins during follow-up in early adulthood. The basic aim of the FT12 study design was to obtain information on individual, familial and school/neighborhood risks for substance use/abuse prior to the onset of regular tobacco and alcohol use and then track trajectories of use and abuse and their consequences into adulthood. But the longitudinal assessments were not narrowly limited to this basic aim, and with multiwave, multirater assessments from ages 11 to 12, the study has created a richly informative data set for analyses of gene–environment interactions of both candidate genes and genomewide measures with measured risk-relevant environments. Because 25 years have elapsed since the start of the study, we are planning a fifth-wave follow-up assessment.
The older Finnish Twin Cohort (FTC) was established in 1974. The baseline survey was in 1975, with two follow-up health surveys in 1981 and 1990. The fourth wave of assessments was done in three parts, with a questionnaire study of twins born during 1945–1957 in 2011–2012, while older twins were interviewed and screened for dementia in two time periods, between 1999 and 2007 for twins born before 1938 and between 2013 and 2017 for twins born in 1938–1944. The content of these wave 4 assessments is described and some initial results are described. In addition, we have invited twin-pairs, based on response to the cohortwide surveys, to participate in detailed in-person studies; these are described briefly together with key results. We also review other projects based on the older FTC and provide information on the biobanking of biosamples and related phenotypes.
Maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSDP) has been linked to offspring's externalizing problems. It has been argued that socio-demographic factors (e.g. maternal age and education), co-occurring environmental risk factors, or pleiotropic genetic effects may account for the association between MSDP and later outcomes. This study provides a comprehensive investigation of the association between MSDP and a single harmonized component of externalizing: aggressive behaviour, measured throughout childhood and adolescence.
Data came from four prospective twin cohorts – Twins Early Development Study, Netherlands Twin Register, Childhood and Adolescent Twin Study of Sweden, and FinnTwin12 study – who collaborate in the EU-ACTION consortium. Data from 30 708 unrelated individuals were analysed. Based on item level data, a harmonized measure of aggression was created at ages 9–10; 12; 14–15 and 16–18.
MSDP predicted aggression in childhood and adolescence. A meta-analysis across the four samples found the independent effect of MSDP to be 0.4% (r = 0.066), this remained consistent when analyses were performed separately by sex. All other perinatal factors combined explained 1.1% of the variance in aggression across all ages and samples (r = 0.112). Paternal smoking and aggressive parenting strategies did not account for the MSDP-aggression association, consistent with the hypothesis of a small direct link between MSDP and aggression.
Perinatal factors, including MSDP, account for a small portion of the variance in aggression in childhood and adolescence. Later experiences may play a greater role in shaping adolescents’ aggressive behaviour.
Early maturation, indexed by pubertal development (PD), has been associated with earlier initiation and greater frequency of adolescent substance use, but this relationship may be biased by confounding factors and effects that change across development. Using a population-based Finnish twin sample (N = 3,632 individuals), we conducted twin modeling and multilevel structural equation modeling of the relationship between PD and substance use at ages 12–22. Shared environmental factors contributed to early PD and heavier substance use for females. Biological father absence was associated with early PD for boys but not girls, and did not account for the relationship between PD and substance use. The association between early PD and heavier substance use was partially due to between-family confounds, although early PD appeared to qualitatively alter long-term trajectories for some substances (nicotine), but not others (alcohol). Mediation by peer and parental factors did not explain this relationship within families. However, higher peer substance use and lower parental monitoring were themselves associated with heavier substance use, strengthening the existing evidence for these factors as targets for prevention/intervention efforts. Early maturation was not supported as a robust determinant of alcohol use trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood, but may require longer term follow-up. Subtle effects of early PD on nicotine and illicit drug use trajectories throughout adolescence and adulthood merit further investigation.
We investigated genetic and environmental correlations and gene by environment interactions (GxE) between depressive symptoms measured by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and quantity smoked measured by number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) using quantitative genetic modeling. The population-based sample consisted of 12,063 twin individuals from the Finnish Twin Cohort Study. Bivariate Cholesky decomposition revealed that the phenotypic correlation (r = 0.09) between BDI and CPD was explained by shared genetic (rg = 0.18) and environmental (re = 0.08) factors. GxE models incorporating moderator effects were built by using CPD as trait and BDI as moderator and vice versa. The importance of the genetic variance component increased with increasing moderator value in both models. Thus, the influence of genetic effects on variance of smoking quantity was enhanced in individuals with elevated depression score and vice versa; the genetic effects on depression variance were potentiated among heavy smokers. In conclusion, shared genetic and environmental factors as well as GxE underlie the association of smoking with depression.
The purpose of this study was to address two methodological issues that have called into question whether previously reported gene–environment interaction (GxE) effects for adolescent alcohol use are ‘real’. These issues are (1) the potential correlation between the environmental moderator and the outcome across twins and (2) non-linear transformations of the behavioral outcome. Three environments that have been previously studied (peer deviance, parental knowledge, and potentially stressful life events) were examined here. For each moderator (peer deviance, parental knowledge, and potentially stressful life events), a series of models was fit to both a raw and transformed measure of monthly adolescent alcohol use in a sample that included 825 dizygotic (DZ) and 803 monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs. The results showed that the moderating effect of peer deviance was robust to transformation, and that although the significance of moderating effects of parental knowledge and potentially stressful life events were dependent on the scale of the adolescent alcohol use outcome, the overall results were consistent across transformation. In addition, the findings did not vary across statistical models. The consistency of the peer deviance results and the shift of the parental knowledge and potentially stressful life events results between trending and significant, shed some light on why previous findings for certain moderators have been inconsistent and emphasize the importance of considering both methodological issues and previous findings when conducting and interpreting GxE analyses.
In order to further understand why depressive symptoms are associated with negative goal appraisals, the present study examined the genetic and environmental correlations and interactions between depressive symptoms and career-related goal appraisals. A total of 1,240 Finnish twins aged 21–26 years completed a questionnaire containing items on the appraisal of their career goals along five dimensions: importance, progress, effort, strain, and self-efficacy. In the same questionnaire, the 10-item General Behavior Inventory assessed depressive symptoms. Structural equation modeling was used to evaluate the genetic and environmental correlations and gene–environment interactions between the career-goal appraisals and depressive symptoms. Associations were identified, and were attributed to environmental factors. Of the career-related goal appraisals, the shared environmental component was of a higher magnitude for the dimension of strain among the depressed compared with non-depressed subjects. The results indicate that the interplay between depressive symptoms and negative career-related goal appraisals is significantly affected by environmental factors, and thus possibly susceptible to targeted interventions.
Most studies on lung function heritability have been conducted in smokers and non-smokers using cross-sectional study design. Smoking patterns may, however, confound the contribution of genetic factors. We investigated heritability of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and FEV1/FVC ratio longitudinally, excluding the effects of smoking. A sample of never smoking female twins (n = 374), aged 63–76 at baseline, answered health questionnaires and attended spirometry in years 2000 and 2003. Bivariate structural equation modeling, restricted to adequate spirometry performances (baseline n = 339, follow-up n = 252), was used to estimate genetic and environmental influences on consecutive measurements of FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC. The best-fitting models included additive genetic and non-shared environmental effects. Heritability estimates of 32% and 36% for FEV1, 41% and 37% for FVC, while 46% and 16% for FEV1/FVC were found at baseline and at follow-up. Genetic correlation between FEV1 and FEV1/FVC heritability estimates approached unity, whereas correlation between FVC estimates was 0.80. Environmental correlations were 0.69 for FEV1, 0.62 for FVC, and 0.07 for FEV1/FVC. In never smokers, additive genetic and non-shared environmental effects explain the inter-individual variations in FEV1, FVC, and FEV1/FVC. One third of the variation in FEV1 and FVC is explained by genetic and two thirds by environmental effects. Between 2000 and 2003, environmental effects on FEV1/FVC changed, and the proportion of variance explained by environmental effects increased remarkably. Genetic effects on FEV1 and FEV1/FVC are common to consecutive measurements, whereas at follow-up, new genetic factors explained 14% of the observed variance in FVC.
We examined whether externalizing problem behaviors (hyperactivity–impulsivity, aggressiveness, and inattention) predict illicit drug use independently, or whether their associations with drug use are mediated through cigarette smoking. We used a prospective longitudinal design within the FinnTwin12-17 study among Finnish adolescents with baseline at age 12 and follow-up surveys at ages 14 and 17. Path models were conducted with Mplus and included 1992 boys and 2123 girls. The outcome was self-reported ever use of cannabis or other illicit drugs at age 17. The predictors were: externalizing behaviors (hyperactivity–impulsivity, aggressiveness, and inattention) assessed by teachers and parents (age 12) and self-reported cigarette smoking (age 14). The findings differed across behavior studied. The association of hyperactivity–impulsivity with drug use was mostly mediated through earlier cigarette smoking. Concerning aggressiveness and inattention, the results were different among girls than boys. Among girls no significant mediation occurred, whereas among boys more consistent evidence on mediation was seen. Consistently in all models, the direct association of early cigarette smoking on drug use was strong and highly significant. We conclude that the associations of externalizing problem behaviors with illicit drug use are partially mediated through cigarette smoking. Although interventions targeting externalizing problem behaviors may protect adolescents from early onset smoking and subsequently experimenting with drugs, interventions to prevent cigarette smoking initiation are also important in reducing risk of later drug use.
We investigated prospectively whether physical activity level in adolescence predicts use of alcohol and illicit drugs in early adulthood. We studied 4,240 individual twins (1,870 twin pairs). We classified those who consistently reported frequent leisure physical activity at ages 16, 17 and 181/2 as persistent exercisers, those exercising less than three times monthly as persistently inactive, and all others as occasional exercisers. To control for familial confounds, within-family analyses compared activity-substance use associations in co-twins discordant for baseline physical activity. Individual-based analyses showed no clear association between baseline physical activity and subsequent weekly alcohol consumption. However, weekly alcohol intoxication (OR = 1.9, p = .002) and problems due to alcohol use (OR = 2.0, p < .001) were more common among persistently inactive participants. After excluding those reporting weekly intoxication at baseline, the risk for alcohol intoxication remained elevated among women occasionally (OR = 2.4, p = .017) or persistently (OR = 5.8, p < .001) inactive at baseline, but this association was not replicated within discordant twin pairs. Individual-based analyses showed that drug use in adulthood was more common among those persistently physically inactive in adolescence (OR = 3.7, p < .001) in comparison to those persistently active. This finding was replicated within discordant twin pairs. Among those with no drug experience during adolescence, persistent inactivity (OR = 1.9, p = .007) increased risk for drug use. We conclude that persistent physical inactivity in adolescence may increase the risk of later problems due to excess alcohol use. Sedentary lifestyle predicts illicit drug use even when controlling for familial factors.
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.
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