The Role of Family Health History in Predicting Midlife Chronic Disease Outcomes


      The generational relevance for determining disease risk for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality for U.S. adults is a source of debate.


      Data on 12,300 adults (Add Health Study Members) participating in Wave V (2016–2018) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (also known as Add Health) were merged with data from respondents’ parents (n=2,013) participating in the Add Health Parent Study (2015–2017). Analyses beginning in January 2020 examined the concordance in lifetime occurrence of chronic conditions across 4 generations, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, cancer, and depression and examined the associations between individual disease history and ones’ family health history for the same condition.


      Mean ages were 37.4 years for Add Health Study Members and 62.9 years for Add Health Parent Study mothers. The histories of mothers from the Add Health Parent Study on hyperlipidemia (AOR=1.61, 95% CI=1.04, 2.48), obesity (AOR=1.77, 95% CI=1.27, 2.48), and depression (AOR=1.87, 95% CI=1.19, 2.95) were significantly associated with increased odds of Add Health Study Member report of these conditions. Maternal great grandparent hyperlipidemia history was significantly associated with the Add Health Study Member hyperlipidemia (AOR=2.81, 95% CI=1.51, 5.21). Histories of diabetes in maternal grandfather (AOR=2.41, 95% CI=1.24, 4.69) and maternal great grandparent (AOR=3.05, 95% CI=1.45, 6.43) were significantly associated with Add Health Study Member diabetes. Each additional point in the Add Health Parent Study mothers’ cardiometabolic risk factor index was associated with an 11% increase (incidence rate ratio=1.11, 95% CI=1.04, 1.19) in the expected count of cardiometabolic risk conditions for the Add Health Study Members.


      Multigenerational health histories have value for quantifying the probability of diabetes, obesity, depression, and hyperlipidemia in early mid-adulthood. Family health history knowledge is relevant for health promotion and disease prevention strategies.
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