Do you dream of having mountains of cash, luxurious cars, and maybe a yacht or two? Perhaps your dreams aren’t quite so indulgent, but you’ve probably imagined how much easier life could be if you had at least some more wealth. But could your genetics be holding you back? Well, it’s complicated, but there is some evidence that certain genes can influence your ability to attain higher income levels, such as intelligence and intrinsic motivation. New research attempts to delve into the complex relationship of genetics, socioeconomic factors, and household income.

Household income and educational attainment are important indicators in determining one’s socioeconomic position (SEP), which refers to the position individuals or groups hold within the structure of a society. People from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, on average, live longer, and have better mental and physical health than those from more deprived environments.

The link between SEP and health is typically believed to be mostly influenced by environmental factors such as exposure to harmful or stressful environments and adverse health behaviors including smoking, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and a lack of physical exercise. However, genetic factors have been discussed as a partial explanation for the SEP–health gradient; for example, genetic predispositions
for certain diseases or genetic influences on what foods people like, could lead to a poor diet. This, in turn, could lead to both lower SEP and poorer health.

Loci associated with two SEP phenotypes, education and household income, have been identified by previous genome-wide studies, but these loci collectively account for only a small fraction of the total heritability of the traits in question. For example, an analysis of household income among Britains found that cumulative genetic effects of common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) accounted for only about 11% of differences in household income.

In this study, researchers examined genetic associations with household income in a contemporary British sample derived from the UK Biobank data set. Researchers used a 5-point scale corresponding to the total household income, 1 being less than £18,000, 2 being £18,000–£29,999, 3 being £30,000–£51,999, 4 being £52,000–£100,000 and 5 being greater than £100,000. A total number of 286,301 participants (138,425 male) aged 39–73 years with genotype data and household income data available were analyzed. In the GWAS analyses, a total of 3,712 SNPs attained genome-wide significance across 30 independent loci. These loci contained 68 independent significant SNPs, including rs11588857 of the LRRN2 gene, rs9653442 of the LINC01104 gene, rs9822268 of the APEH gene, rs2332719 of the ROPN1 gene, rs4490539 of the ZSWIM6 gene, rs10872224 of the RP11-436D23.1 gene, rs9517310 of the FARP1 gene, and rs306755 of the UBOX5-AS1:UBOX5 gene. Of these, rs11588857 was previously found to be associated with educational attainment. Also, by combining the current GWAS on income with data from three other gene-based analyses, 24 genes were selected for follow up. Of these, 18 were previously associated with intelligence. These findings suggest that in modern era Great Britain, genetics are responsible for at least some of the observed socioeconomic inequalities.

Interestingly, previous work in Sweden using lottery-winners as a natural experiment to examine the causal effect of wealth on health differences found that within 10 years of receiving a prize, winning participants did not have a longer life or fewer hospital admissions compared with those who did not win the lottery. This indicates that whereas high earners may be in better health and have a greater level of education than low earners, a high income might not be causal in such differences in affluent countries that have strong social support systems. Although any causal effect of wealth on health is likely to differ across countries and time periods, this study showed that intelligence is one of the factors that contribute to variation in income, but income is a very important factor that mediates the associations between intelligence and health. Read more about the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31844048

Are you interested in learning more about how your genetics might impact your household income? You can login to your Genomelink dashboard to see this new genetic trait.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash



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