Genetics, Environment, and the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development

Really neat article in Nature about the National Survey of Health and Development study:  a cohort of thousands of British children born in 1946 who have gamely given details of their health and environments throughout their lives.  The data on these normal people has been incredibly useful for teasing out some of the relationships between your genes, your environment, your childhood, and your health in adulthood.

“The exercise has revealed some surprises. It has shown that the heaviest babies were most at risk of breast cancer decades later; that children born into lower social classes were more likely to gain weight as adults; that women with higher IQ reached menopause later in life; and that young children who spent more than a week in hospital were more likely to suffer behaviour and education problems later on.”

Many of these observations are of mere correlations of one thing with another, which can be notoriously misleading (correlation doesn’t prove causation!)  Still, this cohort is a fascinating well of data to mine on the average Joe (and Jane).  The data coming out of it gives us a fascinating look at the average person’s paths to different diseases and lifestyles.  England gets major kudos for supporting such an ambitious (and expensive) undertaking for 65 years.

(cross-posted to Tumblr:  Genetics, Environment, and the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development )

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