4 november 2010

Does Education Confer a Culture of Healthy Behavior? Smoking and Drinking Patterns in Danish Twins

More education is associated with healthier smoking and drinking behaviors. Most analyses of effects of education focus on mean levels. Few studies have compared variance in health-related behaviors at different levels of education or analyzed how education impacts underlying genetic and environmental sources of health-related behaviors. This study explored these influences. In a 2002 postal questionnaire, 21,522 members of the Danish Twin Registry, born during 1931-1982, reported smoking and drinking habits. The authors used quantitative genetic models to examine how these behaviors' genetic and environmental variances differed with level of education, adjusting for birth-year effects. As expected, more education was associated with less smoking, and average drinking levels were highest among the most educated. At 2 standard deviations above the mean educational level, variance in smoking and drinking was about one-third that among those at 2 standard deviations below, because fewer highly educated people reported high levels of smoking or drinking. Because shared environmental variance was particularly restricted, one explanation is that education created a culture that discouraged smoking and heavy drinking. Correlations between shared environmental influences on education and the health behaviors were substantial among the well-educated for smoking in both sexes and drinking in males, reinforcing this Notion.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Johnson W.; Kyvik K.O.; Mortensen E.L.; Skytthe A.; Batty G.D.; Deary I.J.
  • Issue

    Am.J.Epidemiol., pages 55-63
  • Published Date

    4 november 2010