This project will examine the ways in which genetic factors influence a cascade of behaviors and social events that ultimately create health inequalities in young adulthood. Such genetic factors include alleles associated with the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems and health factors include biomarkers of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and hypercholesterolemia. The proposed research will examine social mechanisms that link these genetic risk factors and indicators of health with special emphasis on educational processes and attainment, social integration into young adult roles, and health-related behaviors. We will also examine the protective capacity of forms of social capital and control that may attenuate pathways of risk. Data come from four waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative dataset (nH15,600, spanning ages 11 to 32) that will include newly-released genetic data and biomarkers of health. The combination of longitudinal social data with biological specimens from a study of this size provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine how genetic risks, socioeconomic achievements, and stressors associated with young adult roles are linked to the emergence of health inequalities. First, we examine SES- health gradient models that link socioeconomic status of the family-of-origin, health and health- related behaviors in adolescence, socioeconomic attainments and roles in young adulthood, and biomarkers of health. Second, we extend these models to examine gene-environment correlations according to which SES-health gradient processes reflect behavioral predispositions associated with the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems. These analyses will describe the meditational social processes by which neurogenetic factors, educational processes, and social roles are associated with inequalities in health. Third, we will examine gene-environment interactions according to which social capital and control promote well-being in young adulthood despite genetic risk factors. The analyses will thus shed light on how early health inequalities reflect the longitudinal interplay of genetic and social factors.
Public health concerns well-being, which the World Health Organization defines as "a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities" (WHO, 1986 Ottawa Charter). The proposed research will address how genetic and social experiences come together over time to promote or detract from physical health, including the traditional markers of cardiovascular disease. The research will also investigate how social resources (such as close relationships with parents and community involvements) might compensate for genetic risks that would otherwise be associated with cardiovascular disease.
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