A massive new study that included data from more than a million people suggests that genetics may nudge some individuals toward more risky behavior like smoking, drinking, and speeding.
Conducted by an international team of scientists led by researchers from the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC), the study published [January 14] in the journal Nature Genetics identified 124 genetic variants associated with a person’s willingness to take risks.
While the focus of the new research looks at genetic influence, the researchers note that environmental, cultural and demographic circumstances play a much more significant role in a person’s tolerance for risk. However, the study illustrates that genetics has a small but important role.
This study is significant on many levels. For one, risk tolerance is among the most intensively studied traits in social science, because it plays a role in predicting economic and social outcomes as well as personality measures. This study may also contribute to the debate around whether having a risk tolerance in one area, say a willingness to bungee jump, corresponds with taking a risk in another realm, like taking a risk financially. The researchers found evidence of shared genetic influences across risk tolerance and risky behaviors.
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