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Mendelian randomisation analysis of the effect of educational attainment and cognitive ability on smoking behaviour

By Eleanor Sanderson, George Davey Smith, Jack Bowden, Marcus R. Munafò

Posted 16 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/299826 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10679-y)

Recent analyses have shown educational attainment to be associated with a number of health outcomes. This association may, in part, be due to an effect of educational attainment on smoking behaviour. In this study we apply a multivariable Mendelian randomisation design to determine whether the effect of educational attainment on smoking behaviour could be due to educational attainment or general cognitive ability. We use individual data from the UK Biobank study (N = 120,050) and summary data from large GWAS studies of educational attainment, cognitive ability and smoking behaviour. Our results show that more years of education are associated with a reduced likelihood of smoking which is not due to an effect of general cognitive ability on smoking behaviour. Given the considerable physical harms associated with smoking, the effect of educational attainment on smoking is likely to contribute to the health inequalities associated with differences in educational attainment.

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