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Health Serv Res. 2000 December; 35(5 Pt 1): 995–1010.
PMCID: PMC1089180

Heritability of self-reported health.


OBJECTIVE: To explore the contribution of genes and environmental factors to variation in a common measure (i.e., a five-point--excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor--Likert scale) of self-reported health. DATA SOURCES: Data were analyzed from 4,638 male-male twin pair members of the Vietnam Era Twin (VET) Registry who responded to a 1987 health survey. STUDY DESIGN: Varying models for the relationship between genetic and environmental influences on self-reported health were tested in an attempt to explain the relative contributions of additive genetic, shared and nonshared environmental effects, and health conditions reported since 1975 to perceived health status. DATA COLLECTION: A mail and telephone survey of health was administered in 1987 to VET Registry twins. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Variance component estimates under the best-fitting model included a 39.6 percent genetic contribution to self-reported health. In a model which included the effect of health condition, genes accounted for 32.5 percent and health condition accounted for 15.0 percent of the variance in self-reported health. The magnitude of the genetic contribution to perceived health status was not significantly different in a model with or without health condition. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest over one-third of the variability of self-reported health can be attributed to genes. Since perceived health status is a major predictor of morbidity, mortality, and health services utilization, future analyses should consider the role of heritable influences on traditional health services variables.

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Selected References

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