Demographic and socioeconomic differences in polygenic risk of cardiovascular health in the Health and Retirement Study
Funding: Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging, 2016-2017
Though demographic and socioeconomic disparities in cardiovascular risk factors have been repeatedly documented in older populations, there is still substantial debate about their root causes. Identifying these causes is essential in developing effective strategies for reducing these disparities. Research that incorporates biological (specifically genetic), behavioral, and social factors across the life course into the same framework may help to more accurately explain health disparities at older ages. One novel avenue of genetic analysis that has not been extensively explored in the social sciences is polygenic risk scores (PRS). PRSs aggregate millions of individual loci across the human genome. In this way, PRSs maximize statistical power while capturing the complex genetic architecture of disease traits and risk factors across the genome. Whole-genome PRSs are proving to be a powerful way of measuring genetic variation in individuals, and are gradually being incorporated in gene-by-environment interaction
studies in the social sciences. In this pilot, we are examining the extent to which these PRSs are associated with cardiovascular risk factors (i.e. systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol use), and how these associations are modified by key demographic (i.e. sex, age) and socioeconomic factors (i.e. child socioeconomic status (SES) measured by parental education or occupation, and adult SES measured by education, income, or occupation) in the HRS, across the life course.