Genome-wide association analyses of risk tolerance and risky behaviors in over 1 million individuals identify hundreds of loci and shared genetic influences

Richard Karlsson Linner*, Pietro Biroli, Edward Kong, Fleur W. Meddens, Robbee Wedow, Mark Alan Fontana, Mael Lebreton, Stephen P. Tino, Abdel Abdellaoui, Anke R. Hammerschlag, Michel G. Nivard, Aysu Okbay, Cornelius A. Rietveld, Pascal N. Timshel, Maciej Trzaskowski, Ronald de Vlaming, Christian L. Zund, Yanchun Bao, Laura Buzdugan, Ann H. CaplinChia-Yen Chen, Peter Eibich, Pierre Fontanillas, Juan R. Gonzalez, Peter K. Joshi, Ville Karhunen, Aaron Kleinman, Remy Z. Levin, Christina M. Lill, Gerardus A. Meddens, Gerard Muntane, Sandra Sanchez-Roige, Frank J. van Rooij, Erdogan Taskesen, Yang Wu, Futao Zhang, Michelle Agee, Babak Alipanahi, Robert K. Bell, Katarzyna Bryc, Sarah L. Elson, Nicholas A. Furlotte, Karen E. Huber, Nadia K. Litterman, Jennifer C. McCreight, Matthew H. McIntyre, Joanna L. Mountain, Wei Zhao, Jan A. Staessen, Ute Bultmann, 23andMe Research team, eQTLgen Consortium, Int Cannabis Consortium, Social Science Genetic Association Consortium, Jonathan P. Beauchamp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Humans vary substantially in their willingness to take risks. In a combined sample of over 1 million individuals, we conducted genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of general risk tolerance, adventurousness, and risky behaviors in the driving, drinking, smoking, and sexual domains. Across all GWAS, we identified hundreds of associated loci, including 99 loci associated with general risk tolerance. We report evidence of substantial shared genetic influences across risk tolerance and the risky behaviors: 46 of the 99 general risk tolerance loci contain a lead SNP for at least one of our other GWAS, and general risk tolerance is genetically correlated (∣r̂ g∣ ~ 0.25 to 0.50) with a range of risky behaviors. Bioinformatics analyses imply that genes near SNPs associated with general risk tolerance are highly expressed in brain tissues and point to a role for glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission. We found no evidence of enrichment for genes previously hypothesized to relate to risk tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-257
Number of pages16
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • GWAS
  • LD

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