Smoking remains associated with education after controlling for social background and genetic factors in a study of 18 twin cohorts

Sci Rep. 2022 Jul 31;12(1):13148. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-17536-x.


We tested the causality between education and smoking using the natural experiment of discordant twin pairs allowing to optimally control for background genetic and childhood social factors. Data from 18 cohorts including 10,527 monozygotic (MZ) and same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs discordant for education and smoking were analyzed by linear fixed effects regression models. Within twin pairs, education levels were lower among the currently smoking than among the never smoking co-twins and this education difference was larger within DZ than MZ pairs. Similarly, education levels were higher among former smoking than among currently smoking co-twins, and this difference was larger within DZ pairs. Our results support the hypothesis of a causal effect of education on both current smoking status and smoking cessation. However, the even greater intra-pair differences within DZ pairs, who share only 50% of their segregating genes, provide evidence that shared genetic factors also contribute to these associations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Smoking / genetics
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic* / genetics