Age differences in genetic and environmental variations in stress-coping during adulthood: A study of female twins

Yoon-Mi Hur, Alexander J. MacGregor, Lynn Cherkas, Frances M. K. Williams, Tim D. Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The way people cope with stressors of day to day living has an important influence on health. The aim of the present study was to explore whether genetic and environmental variations in stress-coping differ over time during adulthood. The brief COPE was mailed to a large sample of the UK female twins (N = 4,736) having a wide range of age (20-87 years). Factor analyses of the items of the brief COPE yielded three coping scales: 'Problem-Solving', 'Support Seeking', and 'Avoidance'. Monozygotic and dizygotic twin correlations tended to become lower with age for all three scales, suggesting that unique environmental factors may become more important with age during adulthood. Model-fitting results showed that relative influences of unique environmental factors increased from 60 % at age 20 years to 74% at age 87 years for 'Problem-Solving' and 56 % at age 20 years to 76% at age 87 years for 'Avoidance'. During the same age period, genetic factors decreased from 40 to 26 % for 'Problem-Solving' and from 44 to 24 % for 'Avoidance'. For 'Seeking Support', the magnitude of genetic and unique environmental factors was not significantly different across the adulthood. For all three scales, shared environmental effects were negligible. Overall, our findings implicate that the effects of environment that stem from idiosyncratic experience of stressful life events accumulate and become increasingly important in adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-548
Number of pages8
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Environment
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Genetic
  • Problem Solving
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic

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