Elife 2016 12 14;5. Epub 2016 Dec 14.
Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
Human height variation is determined by genetic and environmental factors, but it remains unclear whether their influences differ across birth-year cohorts. We conducted an individual-based pooled analysis of 40 twin cohorts including 143,390 complete twin pairs born 1886-1994. Although genetic variance showed a generally increasing trend across the birth-year cohorts, heritability estimates (0.69-0.84 in men and 0.53-0.78 in women) did not present any clear pattern of secular changes. Comparing geographic-cultural regions (Europe, North America and Australia, and East Asia), total height variance was greatest in North America and Australia and lowest in East Asia, but no clear pattern in the heritability estimates across the birth-year cohorts emerged. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that heritability of height is lower in populations with low living standards than in affluent populations, nor that heritability of height will increase within a population as living standards improve.