Photo: Flickr / Wiros
What if you knew you were only going to live to be 60? According to a recent study, you would be more likely to smoke and less likely to go to college.Doctors Emily Oster, E Ray Dorsey and Ira Shoulson identified these traits in a study of patients diagnosed with Huntington disease, in a paper published by the NBER.
The study tests “human capital theory,” the idea that those who expect to live longer invest more in the future.
Those who were tested and had the gene were much less likely to complete a Bachelor’s Degree::
Individuals who learn through genetic testing that they do carry the HD mutation get, on average, 14.1 years of schooling and 36% of them complete a bachelor degree. In contrast, those who learn they have a negative test result get an average of 15.1 years of schooling and 66% of them complete a bachelor degree; these differences are both significant at the 1% level in simple t-tests.
They were also less likely to quit smoking:
Twelve per cent of individuals who learned they carry the HD mutation currently smoke, versus 8% of those who learn they do not carry the mutation. Perhaps more striking, conditional on ever smoking only 34.5% of those who learn they do not carry the HD mutation are still smokers, versus a full 62.5% of those who learn they do carry the HD mutation.
The finding might fuel controversy about how and when people should be screened for Huntington’s Disease.
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