The Heritability of Blood Donation: A Population-Based Nationwide Twin Study

Transfusion. 2015 Sep;55(9):2169-74; quiz 2168. doi: 10.1111/trf.13086. Epub 2015 Mar 21.


Background: Voluntary blood donation is believed to be mostly motivated by altruism. Because studies have suggested that altruistic personality is determined by both genetic and environmental factors, we speculated that willingness to donate blood could also be governed by constitutional factors. This hypothesis was tested in a study among Danish twins.

Study design and methods: The nationwide Danish Twin Register, which is virtually complete for all twins born since 1968, was linked with Danish portion of the Scandinavian Donation and Transfusion (SCANDAT) Database, which includes information on all active Danish blood donors from 2002 to 2012, to establish blood donor status for Danish twins, who at age 17 years became eligible for donation in 2002 or later. Casewise concordance in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins were presented and heritability was estimated in Mx by variance component analysis in a liability threshold model.

Results: A total of 274 MZ and 484 same-sex DZ twins age 17 to 27 years were identified as donors in SCANDAT. There was no difference between MZ and DZ twins with regard to age at first donation or number of donations. Casewise concordance rates were 0.61 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56-0.67) and 0.41 (95% CI, 0.36-0.47) in MZ and DZ twin pairs, respectively. Heritability analysis using the ACE model found that additive genetic and shared environmental effects accounted for 0.53 (95% CI, 0.33-0.73) and 0.28 (95% CI, 0.10-0.45) of the variance in the motivation to donate blood, respectively.

Conclusion: Becoming a volunteer blood donor is determined by both genetic and environmental factors shared within families.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Donors*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Registries*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*