Increased genetic contribution to wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lifelines Corona Research initiative, C A Robert Warmerdam, Henry H Wiersma, Pauline Lanting, Alireza Ani, Marjolein X L Dijkema, Harold Snieder, Judith M Vonk, H Marike Boezen, Patrick Deelen, Lude H Franke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Physical and mental health are determined by an interplay between nature, for example genetics, and nurture, which encompasses experiences and exposures that can be short or long-lasting. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a unique situation in which whole communities were suddenly and simultaneously exposed to both the virus and the societal changes required to combat the virus. We studied 27,537 population-based biobank participants for whom we have genetic data and extensive longitudinal data collected via 19 questionnaires over 10 months, starting in March 2020. This allowed us to explore the interaction between genetics and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals' wellbeing over time. We observe that genetics affected many aspects of wellbeing, but also that its impact on several phenotypes changed over time. Over the course of the pandemic, we observed that the genetic predisposition to life satisfaction had an increasing influence on perceived quality of life. We also estimated heritability and the proportion of variance explained by shared environment using variance components methods based on pedigree information and household composition. The results suggest that people's genetic constitution manifested more prominently over time, potentially due to social isolation driven by strict COVID-19 containment measures. Overall, our findings demonstrate that the relative contribution of genetic variation to complex phenotypes is dynamic rather than static.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010135
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19-May-2022


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

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