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Jere Behrman, University of Pennsylvania

Alternative Trajectories in Body Weight, Mental and Cognitive Health among Older Americans: Roles of Genetics and Earlier SES

Body weight, mental health and cognitive health are three important components affecting the overall health and wellbeing of older adults. We investigate the roles of genetic predisposition, childhood SES and adult schooling attainment in shaping trajectories of these three outcomes. We use the Health & Retirement Study and group-based trajectory modelling to identify subgroups of people who share the same underlying trajectories. After identifying trajectories, we then estimate associations of baseline (1) polygenic scores (PGS, summary measures of genetic predispositions) for BMI, depression, ever-smoked, education, cognition and subjective wellbeing, (2) childhood SES and (3) schooling attainment with the trajectories for (1) BMI, (2) mental health (i.e., depressive symptoms) and (3) cognition. We find that the association of the BMI PGS with BMI is substantially larger than associations of childhood SES and schooling attainment with BMI. In contrast, for mental and cognitive health, schooling attainment has larger associations compared to PGSs and childhood SES. We also find suggestive evidence that higher childhood SES attenuates the association of the education PGS with mental and cognitive health.

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