Skip to Content

Almost 1,300 Genes Seem Tied to Academic Success

TUESDAY, July 24, 2018 -- If you ever wonder why you never managed to finish college, some of the explanation may lie in your DNA.

Scientists report that they have pinpointed nearly 1,300 genetic variants that appear to be associated with how far someone may go in school.

The findings move researchers "in a clearer direction in understanding the genetic architecture of complex behavior traits like educational attainment," said study co-first author Robbee Wedow. He's a researcher with the University of Colorado's Institute for Behavioral Genetics.

The study included more than 1.1 million people in 15 countries.

Combined, 1,271 genetic variants explain about 4 percent of the variation in educational attainment between individuals, the researchers said.

However, when the researchers included the effects of all of the variants to create a "polygenic" score, they found it was predictive of 11 percent to 13 percent of variation in years of completed schooling.

This means the score's predictive power is similar to that of factors such as household income or a mother's level of education, the study authors said.

"That is a large effect for a polygenic score, especially for a behavioral outcome," Wedow said in a university news release.

But while the polygenic score is useful for research, the study does not prove that these genes determine how far someone will go in school.

"Having a low polygenic score absolutely does not mean that someone won't achieve a high level of education," said Wedow. He explained that factors such as ambition, family situation and socioeconomic status play a bigger role than genes.

"As with many other outcomes, it is a complex interplay between environment and genetics that matters," Wedow said.

The findings were published July 23 in the journal Nature Genetics.

© 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: July 2018

Read this next

Poverty Might Raise Black Kids' Health Risks as Early as Age 5

FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2020 -- Kids growing up in poverty show the effects of being poor as early as age 5 -- especially those who are Black, a new study suggests. The research adds to...

Older Adults Turning to Pot for Common Health Problems

TUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2020 -- Marijuana is fast becoming a favorite medication among older Americans, a new study finds. Cannabis is being used to ease problems such as pain, sleep...

Pandemic Putting Americans Under Great Mental Strain: Poll

TUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2020 -- COVID-19, health care, the economy, systemic racism and the presidential election are a threat to the nation's mental health, according to an American...