Genetic diversity is a predictor of mortality in humans

Nathan A. Bihlmeyer, Jennifer A. Brody, Albert V ernon Smith, Kathryn L. Lunetta, Mike Nalls, Jennifer A. Smith, Toshiko Tanaka, Gail Davies, Lei Yu, Saira S aeed Mirza, Alexander Teumer, Josef Coresh, James S. Pankow, Nora Franceschini, Anish Scaria, Junko Oshima, Bruce M. Psaty, Vilmundur Gudnason, Gudny Eiriksdottir, Tamara B. HarrisHanyue Li, David Karasik, Douglas P. Kiel, Melissa Garcia, Yongmei Liu, Jessica D. Faul, Sharon L r Kardia, Wei Zhao, Luigi Ferrucci, Michael Allerhand, David C. Liewald, Paul Redmond, John M. Starr, Philip L. De Jager, Denis A. Evans, Nese Direk, Mohammed A rfan Ikram, André Uitterlinden, Georg Homuth, Roberto Lorbeer, Hans J. Grabe, Lenore Launer, Joanne M. Murabito, Andrew B. Singleton, David R. Weir, Stefania Bandinelli, Ian J. Deary, David A. Bennett, Henning Tiemeier, Thomas Kocher, Thomas Lumley, Dan E. Arking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: It has been well-established, both by population genetics theory and direct observation in many organisms, that increased genetic diversity provides a survival advantage. However, given the limitations of both sample size and genome-wide metrics, this hypothesis has not been comprehensively tested in human populations. Moreover, the presence of numerous segregating small effect alleles that influence traits that directly impact health directly raises the question as to whether global measures of genomic variation are themselves associated with human health and disease. Results: We performed a meta-analysis of 17 cohorts followed prospectively, with a combined sample size of 46,716 individuals, including a total of 15,234 deaths. We find a significant association between increased heterozygosity and survival (P = 0.03). We estimate that within a single population, every standard deviation of heterozygosity an individual has over the mean decreases that person's risk of death by 1.57%. Conclusions: This effect was consistent between European and African ancestry cohorts, men and women, and major causes of death (cancer and cardiovascular disease), demonstrating the broad positive impact of genomic diversity on human survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number159
JournalBMC genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funded in part by training grant (NIGMS) 5T32GM07814. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1232825. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Funding Information:
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute contracts (HHSN268201100005C, HHSN268201100006C, HHSN268201100007C, HHSN268201100008C, HHSN268201100009C, HHSN268201100010C, HHSN268201100011C, and HHSN268201100012C), R01HL087641, R01HL59367 and R01HL086694; National Human Genome Research Institute contract U01HG004402; and National Institutes of Health contract HHSN268200625226C. The authors thank the staff and participants of the ARIC study for their important contributions. Infrastructure was partly supported by Grant Number UL1RR025005, a component of the National Institutes of Health and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. AGES The Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility Reykjavik Study has been funded by NIH contract N01-AG-12100, the NIA Intramural Research Program, Hjartavernd (the Icelandic Heart Association), and the Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament). The study is approved by the Icelandic National Bioethics Committee, (VSN: 00–063) and the Data Protection Authority. The researchers are indebted to the participants for their willingness to participate in the study. CHS Cardiovascular Health Study: This CHS research was supported by NHLBI contracts HHSN268201200036C, HHSN268200800007C, N01HC55222, N01HC85079, N01HC85080, N01HC85081, N01HC85082, N01HC85083, N01HC85086; and NHLBI grants HL080295, HL087652, HL105756, HL085251 with additional contribution from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Additional support was provided through AG023629 from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). A full list of principal CHS investigators and institutions can be found at

Funding Information:
The provision of genotyping data was supported in part by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, CTSI grant UL1TR000124, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease Diabetes Research Center (DRC) grant DK063491 to the Southern California Diabetes Endocrinology Research Center. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. FHS Funding: The Framingham Heart Study analyses were supported by the National Institute of Aging (R01AG29451). This research was conducted in part using data and resources from the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and Boston University School of Medicine. The analyses reflect intellectual input and resource development from the Framingham Heart Study investigators participating in the SNP Health Association Resource (SHARe) project. This work was partially supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study (Contract No. N01-HC-25195) and its contract with Affymetrix, Inc for genotyping services (Contract No. N02-HL-6-4278). A portion of this research utilized the Linux Cluster for Genetic Analysis (LinGA-II) funded by the Robert Dawson Evans Endowment of the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center. Dr. Kiel was partially supported by the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (R01 AR41398). HealthABC This research was supported by NIA contracts N01AG62101, N01AG62103, and N01AG62106 and was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute on Aging (Z01 AG000949-02 and Z01 AG007390-07, Human subjects protocol UCSF IRB is H5254-12688-11). The genome-wide association study was funded by NIA grant 1R01AG032098-01A1 to Wake Forest University Health Sciences and genotyping services were provided by the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR). CIDR is fully funded through a federal contract from the National Institutes of Health to The Johns Hopkins University, contract number HHSN268200782096C. This study utilized the high-performance computational capabilities of the Biowulf Linux cluster at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. ( HRS HRS is supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA U01AG009740). The genotyping was funded separately by the National Institute on Aging (RC2 AG036495, RC4 AG039029). Our genotyping was conducted by the NIH Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR) at Johns Hopkins University. Genotyping quality control and final preparation of the data were performed by the Genetics Coordinating Center at the University of Washington. InCHIANTI The InCHIANTI study baseline (1998–2000) was supported as a "targeted project" (ICS110.1/RF97.71) by the Italian Ministry of Health and in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (Contracts: 263 MD 9164 and 263 MD 821336). LBC Lothian Birth Cohorts 1921 and 1936 (LBC1921, LBC1936) We thank the cohort participants and team members who contributed to these studies. Phenotype collection in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 was supported by the BBSRC, The Royal Society and The Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government. Phenotype collection in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 was supported by Age UK (The Disconnected Mind project). Genotyping of the cohorts was funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The work was undertaken by The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/K026992/1). Funding from the BBSRC, and Medical Research Council (MRC) is gratefully acknowledged. MAP/ROS The MAP and ROS data used in this analysis was supported by National Institute on Aging grants P30AG10161, R01AG17917, R01AG15819, R01AG30146, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute. Rotterdam The Rotterdam Study is supported by Erasmus Medical Centre and Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly (RIDE), the Netherlands Genomics Initiative, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, the European Commission (DG XII), and the Municipality of Rotterdam. Prof. Tiemeier was supported by the VIDI grant of ZonMw (2009–017.106.370). Dr. Ikram was supported by the VENI grant of NWO. The funders had no role in the study design or data collection and analysis. SHIP SHIP is part of the Community Medicine Research net of the University of Greifswald, Germany, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grants no. 01ZZ9603, 01ZZ0103, and 01ZZ0403), the Ministry of Cultural Affairs as well as the Social Ministry of the Federal State of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, and the network ‘Greifswald Approach to Individualized Medicine (GANI_MED)’ funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant 03IS2061A). Genome-wide data have been supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant no. 03ZIK012) and a joint grant from Siemens Healthcare, Erlangen, Germany and the Federal State of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The University of Greifswald is a member of the ‘Center of Knowledge Interchange’ program of the Siemens AG and the Caché Campus program of the InterSystems GmbH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Bihlmeyer et al.; licensee Biomed Central.


  • GWAS
  • Heterozygosity
  • Human
  • Survival


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