Does DNA determine success in life?


Your genes may play a part in whether or not you'll enjoy career and financial success, researchers suggest.

But, these "success" genes aren't necessarily your destiny. They may play only a small role in your life, and the study wasn't designed to prove that certain genes determine your future, the researchers noted.

A previous study found that genetic variants might be linked with levels of education. These variants could then be turned into a "polygenic score." And, people with a score above zero were more likely to complete more years of schooling, the researchers said.

This new study, published June 1 in the journal Psychological Science, took that finding a step further.

"Getting a good education requires many of the same skills and abilities needed to get ahead in life more generally. So, we hypothesized that the same genetics that predicted success in schooling would predict success in life," said study leader Daniel Belsky, who's with the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

He and his colleagues looked at nearly four decades of data. The data included almost 1,000 people in New Zealand.

The researchers found those with higher polygenic scores were more likely than those with lower scores to move away from home in search of career opportunities. They were also more likely to have more successful careers, to be better at managing their money, and to have spouses with higher levels of education and income, the study found.

This link between higher polygenic scores and success was seen even in people born into families that were relatively poor.

Intelligence accounted for some of the association between genes and success. But, so did other psychological characteristics such as self-control and interpersonal skills, the researchers said.

The researchers didn't find a link between polygenic scores and physical health.

While the findings suggest how genes may play a role in shaping peoples' lives, the links between polygenic scores and life success are small, the researchers emphasized.

"We can make only very weak predictions about how far a child can go in life based on their genes," Belsky said in a journal news release.

" 'Precision education' or other tailoring of environments to children's genomes is not possible with the data we have in hand today, but our findings suggest that such data may someday become available," he said. "It is vital to have the conversation about what that might mean and how we will deal with it before it happens.

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