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Project

Social Factors and Health: a Twin Study - project description

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We explore the genetic and environmental sources of covariance underlying the relationships between diverse types of social factors and their association with health outcomes.


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Summary

Humans are fundamentally social beings. Our brains evolved to form and sustain social relationships, and our social worlds significantly impact well-being throughout life. This is supported by a large epidemiological literature documenting that social worlds have significant and far-reaching effects on human physical and psychological health throughout life. A high level of social integration and engagement is associated with improved growth and development in children, lower biological risk profiles in adults reduced risks for cognitive and physical decline, greater resilience for a host of somatic diseases, lower risks for disease and disability, and greater longevity. These effects are sizeable and confer as great a risk to health and mortality as do the most important known risk  factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyle. Qualitative aspects of relationships are also consequential (e.g., greater frequency of perceived social conflict being associated with poorer biological risk profiles. Experimental data complement these findings and demonstrate that being in socially supportive relationships buffers against illness and improves resilience to physical and emotional stress. Perceived stress has also been linked to higher risks for a range of major health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, autoimmune disease, HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections. We explore the genetic and environmental sources of covariance underlying the relationships between diverse types of social factors and their association with health outcomes.  This study leverages unique features of the twin design that control for fundamental sources of familial (genetic and shared environmental) confounding. 

See the full project description at Cristin for more information about results, researchers, contact information etc.

Project participants

Project leader

Jennifer Ruth Harris, Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Project participants

Ingrid Helene Garmann Østensen, Avdeling for genetikk og bioinformatikk, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Thomas Sevenius Nilsen, Avdeling for helseundersøkelser, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Øyvind Næss, Avdeling for kroniske sykdommer og aldring, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Gun Peggy S. Knudsen, Helsedata og digitalisering, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Astanand Jugessur, Avdeling for genetikk og bioinformatikk, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Ingunn Brandt, Avdeling for helseundersøkelser, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Julia Isaeva, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Vegard Fykse Skirbekk, Senter for fruktbarhet og helse, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Megan Todd, Columbia University in the City of New York
Johanna Lucia Thorbjørnsrud Nader, Avdeling for genetikk og bioinformatikk, Norwegian Institute of Public Health