Choose your roommate wisely, as a new research found that our health is more affected by our roommates' genes than by our surroundings.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in UK found another person's genetic traits affect our own lifestyles, particularly wound healing, anxiety, immune function and body weight. The study was published in the journal of PLOS Genetics. "People influence your behaviour, health and well-being and you influence theirs -- this much we know," said Amelie Baud, a geneticist at the European Bioinformatic Institute.
‘UK researchers found that another person's genetic traits affect our own lifestyles, particularly wound healing, anxiety, immune function and body weight.’
"If you're a researcher looking for links between genotypes and disease, it is very important to look not only at your patient but also at their social environment," Baud added. The team set up grey and black mice as unrelated 'roommates' in different combinations.
They studied social genetic effects by measuring the association between traits in individual mice and the genetic makeup of their cage mates. The results indicate that social genetic effects explained up to 29 percent of phenotypic variance, or a change in our characteristic traits due to a combination of genes and environmental factors. In some cases, social genetic effects exceeded that of direct genetic effects, or the effect of an individual's own genetic makeup on these traits.
This can also help patients and doctors identify the best way to intervene when a patient's health is affected by their partner. The researchers explained of someone getting late to bed every night because their partner is a night owl. That person develops an illness, but doesn't mention the sleeping pattern to the doctor, and the doctor doesn't think to ask.
"If research showed there was indeed a connection between your illness and the genes that control your partner's sleeping pattern, then your doctor could better probe your life habits and give useful advice," Baud added. By continuing to study social genetic effects, the researchers hope to learn more about the mechanisms whereby people influence one another.