Roommates. Most of us have had them at one time or another in our lives. Some we enjoyed, others……not so much. But did you know your roommate might have a profound influence over your health? That’s the word from a new study that suggests you should pick your roommates wisely!
Researchers found that the genetics of a mouse’s cage mate can affect its own health in a multitude of ways. Moreover, cage mates do this by influencing traits once thought to be controlled solely by an animal’s own genes, such as growth rate and the functioning of its immune system.
“The take-away message here is that we need to pay attention to the genetic makeup of social partners, since in some cases it affects health more than the individual’s own genes,” said Amelie Baud, a postdoctoral fellow at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England, and first author on the study.
According to LiveScience.com, “Scientists have long known that social interactions contribute to health and disease. For example, peer pressure can increase the chances that a teenager will take up smoking. However, the extent to which the genetic makeup of one animal can impact the traits of another that it lives with — an emerging concept called social or indirect genetic effects — is poorly understood.”
A news release associated with the study pointed out an example of how the genes of your roommate might affect your health…..often, unbeknownst to you.
“Imagine you are a morning person and your partner is a night owl. So every night you end up going to sleep later than you’d like,” explains (the study’s lead author Amelie )Baud. “Now, say you develop an illness, but don’t mention the sleep situation to your doctor because you don’t know that it’s important. Maybe your doctor doesn’t ask you because she doesn’t know it’s relevant. But if research showed there was indeed a connection between your illness and the genes that control your partner’s sleeping pattern, then your doctor could better probe your life habits and give useful advice. You and your night owl could then make the right change to ensure you get the sleep you need to heal. With this change, you would be mitigating the negative influence of the night owl’s genotypes on your health.”
So the next time you or someone you know is in the market for a new roommate – let them know they should choose very carefully. Their health may depend on it!
We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this new study. Generating conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!