Does education confer a culture of healthy behavior? Smoking and drinking patterns in Danish twins

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

More education is associated with healthier smoking and drinking behaviors. Most analyses of effects of education focus on mean levels. Few studies have compared variance in health-related behaviors at different levels of education or analyzed how education impacts underlying genetic and environmental sources of health-related behaviors. This study explored these influences. In a 2002 postal questionnaire, 21,522 members of the Danish Twin Registry, born during 1931-1982, reported smoking and drinking habits. The authors used quantitative genetic models to examine how these behaviors' genetic and environmental variances differed with level of education, adjusting for birth-year effects. As expected, more education was associated with less smoking, and average drinking levels were highest among the most educated. At 2 standard deviations above the mean educational level, variance in smoking and drinking was about one-third that among those at 2 standard deviations below, because fewer highly educated people reported high levels of smoking or drinking. Because shared environmental variance was particularly restricted, one explanation is that education created a culture that discouraged smoking and heavy drinking. Correlations between shared environmental influences on education and the health behaviors were substantial among the well-educated for smoking in both sexes and drinking in males, reinforcing this notion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Alcohol Drinking, Denmark, Diseases in Twins, Educational Status, Female, Health Behavior, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Questionnaires, Retrospective Studies, Smoking, Twins, Young Adult

ID: 33184689