Individuals with more education tend to live longer. Genetic variants have been discovered that predict educational attainment. We tested whether a “polygenic score” based on these genetic variants could make predictions about people’s lifespan. We used data from three cohort studies (including >130,000 participants) to examine the link between offspring polygenic score for education and parental longevity. Across the studies, we found that participants with more education-linked genetic variants had longer-living parents; compared with those with the lowest genetic education scores, those with the highest scores had parents who lived on average 6 months longer. This finding suggests the hypothesis that part of the ultimate explanation for the extended longevity of better-educated people is an underlying, quantifiable, genetic propensity.Abstract
Educational attainment is associated with many health outcomes, including longevity. It is also known to be substantially heritable. Here, we used data from three large genetic epidemiology cohort studies (Generation Scotland, n = ∼17,000; UK Biobank, n = ∼115,000; and the Estonian Biobank, n = ∼6,000) to test whether education-linked genetic variants can predict lifespan length. We did so by using cohort members’ polygenic profile score for education to predict their parents’ longevity. Across the three cohorts, meta-analysis showed that a 1 SD higher polygenic education score was associated with ∼2.7% lower mortality risk for both mothers (total ndeaths = 79,702) and ∼2.4% lower risk for fathers (total ndeaths = 97,630). On average, the parents of offspring in the upper third of the polygenic score distribution lived 0.55 y longer compared with those of offspring in the lower third. Overall, these results indicate that the genetic contributions to educational attainment are useful in the prediction of human longevity.