Journal Article

The heritability of mortality due to heart disease: a correlated frailty model applied to Danish twins

Wienke, A., Holm, N. V., Skytthe, A., Yashin, A. I.
Twin Research, 4:4, 266–274 (2001)


Data of the Danish Twin Registry on monozygotic and dizygotic twins are used to analyse genetic and environmental influences on susceptibility to heart diseases for males and females, respectively. The sample includes 7955 like-sexed twin pairs born between 1870 and 1930. Follow-up was from 1 January 1943 to 31 December 1993 which results in truncation (twin pairs were included in the study if both individuals were still alive at the beginning of the follow-up) and censoring (nearly 40 \% of the study population was still alive at the end of the follow-up). We use the correlated gamma-frailty model for the genetic analysis of frailty to account for this censoring and truncation. During the follow-up 9370 deaths occurred, 3393 deaths were due to heart diseases in general, including 2476 deaths due to coronary heart disease (CHD). Proportions of variance of frailty attributable to genetic and environmental factors were analyzed using the structural equation model approach. Different 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 model heritability of frailty (liability to death) was found to be 0.55 (0.07) and 0.53 (0.11) with respect to heart diseases and CHD, respectively, for males and 0.52 (0.10) and 0.58 (0.14) for females in a parametric analysis. A semi-parametric analysis show very similar results. These analysis may indicate the existence of a strong genetic influence on individual frailty associated with mortality caused by heart diseases and CHD in both, males and females. The nature of genetic influences on frailty with respect to heart diseases and CHD is probably additive. No evidence for dominance and shared environment were found.
Keywords: Denmark, heredity, twins
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.