Genetic effects on physical health: Lower at higher income levels

Wendy Johnson, Robert F. Krueger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Given the robust finding that people in higher income groups tend to experience better physical health, there is interest in identifying mechanisms underlying this gradient. Using a nationwide sample of 719 twin pairs from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, we investigated the possibility that gene-environment interaction underlies the income-health gradient. We observed that genetic variance associated with 2 measures of physical health, number of chronic illnesses and body mass index, each declined significantly with increasing income. This interaction effect could not be removed by adjusting income for the presence of health insurance coverage and education, suggesting that the interaction is not simply a result of differences in levels of those characteristics with income.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-590
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development, and by National Institute on Aging Grant No. AG20166. We thank Tom Bouchard for his helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.


  • Environmental influences
  • Genetic influences
  • Income
  • Physical health
  • Twin study


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