The heritability of cause-specific mortality: a correlated gamma-frailty model applied to mortality due to respiratory diseases in Danish twins born 1870 -1930

Wienke, A., Holm, N. V., Christensen, K., Skytthe, A., Vaupel, J. W., Yashin, A. I.
Statistics in Medicine, 22:24, 3873–3887 (2003)


The genetic influence on susceptibility to diseases of the respiratory system and all-cause mortality was studied using data for identical (MZ)and fraternal (DZ) twins. Data from the Danish Twin Register include 1344 MZ and 2411 DZ male twin pairs and 1470 MZ and 2730 DZ female twin pairs born between 1870 and 1930, where both individuals were alive on 1 January 1943. We used the correlated gamma-frailty model. Proportions of variance in frailty attributable to genetic and environmental factors were assessed using the structural equation model approach. For all-cause mortality the correlation coefficients of frailty for MZ twins tend to be higher than for DZ twins. For mortality with respect to respiratory diseases this effect was only seen in females, whereas males showed the opposite effect. Five standard biometric models are fitted to the data to evaluate the magnitude and nature of genetic and environmental factors on mortality. Using the best fitting biometric model heritability for cause of death was found to be 0.58 (0.07) for all-cause mortality (AE-model) and zero for diseases of the respiratory system for males. Heritability was 0.63 (0.11)for all-cause mortality (DE-model) and 0.18 (0.09) for diseases of the respiratory system (DE-model) for females. The analysis confirms the presence of a strong genetic influence on individual frailty associated with all-cause mortality. For respiratory diseases, no genetic influence was found in males and only weak genetic influence in females. The nature of genetic influences on frailty with respect to all-cause mortality is probably additive in males and dominant in females, whereas for frailty with respect to deaths caused by respiratory diseases in females, there are genetic factors present which are caused by dominance. Environmental influences are non-shared with exception of frailty with respect to respiratory diseases in males, where the shared environment plays an important role.
Schlagwörter: Dänemark, causes of death, genetic models, heredity, respiratory system
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