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Regional variation in health is predominantly driven by lifestyle rather than genetics

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Original languageEnglish
Article number801
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2017

Abstract

Regional differences in health-related phenotypes have been detected between and within countries. In Scotland, regions differ for a variety of health-related traits and display differences in mean lifespan of up to 7.5 years. Both genetics and lifestyle differences are potential causes of this variation. Using data on obesity-related traits of ~11,000 Scottish individuals with genome-wide genetic information and records of lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, we explored causes of regional variation by using models that incorporate genetic and environmental information jointly. We found that variation between individuals within regions showed substantial influence of both genetic variation and family environment. Regional variation for most obesity traits was associated with lifestyle and socioeconomic variables, such as smoking, diet and deprivation which are potentially modifiable. There was limited evidence that regional differences were of genetic origin. This has important implications for healthcare policies, suggesting that inequalities can be tackled with appropriate social and economic interventions.

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