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Approved research

Genes and neighbourhood characteristics (support for application #41382)

Principal Investigator: Dr Pietro Biroli
Approved Research ID: 65879
Approval date: October 13th 2020

Lay summary

We examine how Genes and the Environment (GxE) interact to generate inequalities in education and health over the life course. Previous research has established that both genes and the environment play a role in determining educational outcomes and risky health behaviour. For example, some people have genetic variants that make them more susceptible to nicotine addiction, but not all of them develop smoking habits; their environment, too, plays a role. We use genetic information from the UKB and similar sources to identify the genetic variants that play a role in determining risky health behaviours (drinking, smoking, etc) and then create a "polygenic score" that quantifies this genetic influence. Using data on the local environment (local policy, social norms, etc), we then study how the genetic measures interact with the environment to study whether (and how) a stable, high-quality environment can overcome genetic disadvantage and to identify which individual, social, and policy environments curtail risky health behaviour among individuals with elevated genetic risk. Equipped with the findings of our research, it is our hope that the public can better consider the consequences of public health decisions surrounding alcohol consumption with respect to groups of varying genetic risk. The project will take approximately 18 months and will typically use all available observations in the UKB that (i) are of European descent, (ii) have been successfully genotyped, and (iii) have measures of the outcomes under investigation.