Heritability of health and aging limitations on personally desired activities

  • Barry J. Gurland | lc644@columbia.edu Columbia University Stroud Center, New York, NY, United States.
  • William Page National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council Twin Registry, United States.
  • Brent Small University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, United States.
  • John J. McArdle University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States.
  • Brenda L. Plassman Duke University, Durham, NC, United States.


The aim of this study is to estimate heritability of incident limitations on personally desired activities within the eighth decade of life. We measured self-rated ability to perform ten personally desired activities in 1606 male veteran twin pairs at baseline and four years later. At follow-up, 33% of the cohort reported more limitations in desired activities. Among twins who completed both assessments, there were no statistically significant differences in incidence rates of limitations as a function of zygosity. Sensitivity tests showed the same for change scores; and that, if cognitive impairment or death are deemed to belong among limitations of desired activities, zygosity contributed 10% to new limitations at follow-up. Maintaining personally desired activities over four years in the eighth decade is not subject to substantial genetic influence. However, if death and cognitive impairment are added to incident limitations, then genetics plays a modest role. In all cases, unique environment is the predominant influence.



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Aging, genetics, incidence, limitations
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How to Cite
Gurland, B. J., Page, W., Small, B., McArdle, J. J., & Plassman, B. L. (2015). Heritability of health and aging limitations on personally desired activities. Health Psychology Research, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.4081/hpr.2015.1981