Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies

Tinca J.C. Polderman, Beben Benyamin, Christiaan A. De Leeuw, Patrick F. Sullivan, Arjen Van Bochoven, Peter M. Visscher, Danielle Posthuma

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894 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a century of research on complex traits in humans, the relative importance and specific nature of the influences of genes and environment on human traits remain controversial. We report a meta-analysis of twin correlations and reported variance components for 17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits. Estimates of heritability cluster strongly within functional domains, and across all traits the reported heritability is 49%. For a majority (69%) of traits, the observed twin correlations are consistent with a simple and parsimonious model where twin resemblance is solely due to additive genetic variation. The data are inconsistent with substantial influences from shared environment or non-additive genetic variation. This study provides the most comprehensive analysis of the causes of individual differences in human traits thus far and will guide future gene-mapping efforts. All the results can be visualized using the MaTCH webtool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-709
Number of pages8
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 26 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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