Genetic Confounding in the Education-Health Association

Adam Lilly , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Until recently, it was difficult for researchers interested in the relationship between education and health to control for common genetic factors that could confound the association. Drawing on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), this study investigates whether the education-health association for three separate health outcomes is confounded by common genetic influences. The analysis focuses on depression, self-rated health, and body mass index (BMI). I review the literature on genetic correlation (rG) and types of pleiotropy and determine under what circumstances we would expect to observe genetic confounding. To test for genetic confounding, I use a structural equation modeling approach with polygenic scores (PGSs) to compare various model specifications. Results provide evidence for genetic confounding of the relationship between education and BMI, and between education and self-rated health, but not of the relationship between education and depression.

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 Presented in Session 142. Genes and Health - Using Polygenic Scores