Single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with reading ability show connection to socio-economic outcomes

Michelle Luciano, Saskia P. Hagenaars, Simon R. Cox, William David Hill, Gail Davies, Sarah E. Harris, Ian J. Deary, David M. Evans, Nicholas G. Martin, Margaret J. Wright, Timothy C. Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Impairments in reading and in language have negative consequences on life outcomes, but it is not known to what extent genetic effects influence this association. We constructed polygenic scores for difficulties with language and learning to read from genome-wide data in ~6,600 children, adolescents and young adults, and tested their association with health, socioeconomic outcomes and brain structure measures collected in adults (maximal N = 111,749). Polygenic risk of reading difficulties was associated with reduced income, educational attainment, self-rated health and verbal-numerical reasoning (p < 0.00055). Polygenic risk of language difficulties predicted income (p = 0.0005). The small effect sizes ranged 0.01–0.03 of a standard deviation, but these will increase as genetic studies for reading ability get larger. Polygenic scores for childhood cognitive ability and educational attainment were correlated with polygenic scores of reading and language (up to 0.09 and 0.05, respectively). But when they were included in the prediction models, the observed associations between polygenic reading and adult outcomes mostly remained. This suggests that the pathway from reading ability to social outcomes is not only via associated polygenic loads for general cognitive function and educational attainment. The presence of non-overlapping genetic effect is indicated by the genetic correlations of around 0.40 (childhood intelligence) and 0.70 (educational attainment) with reading ability. Mendelian randomization approaches will be important to dissociate any causal and moderating effects of reading and related traits on social outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-479
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number5
Early online date15 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cross-trait linkage disequilibrium regression
  • MRI
  • UK Biobank
  • polygenic scores
  • genetic correlation


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