HCR.20.034 – The Nature and Nurture of Human Behavior

Route: Health care research, sickness prevention and treatment

Cluster question: 070 Why do we do what we do, are we who we think we are, and what factors influence our behaviour? In other words, how can we understand our behaviour?

Nature and nurture affect virtually any human trait. We will build on the strengths of the Netherlands in genetics and the social sciences through an interdisciplinary consortium of Dutch universities, data providers, government bodies, knowledge sharing and communications partners, and policy research institutes. The consortium seeks to contribute to the 2020-2023 Knowledge and Innovation Agenda’s aim for Dutch citizens to live an additional 5 years and to reduce socio-economic disparities in health by 30% by 2040.

We will genotype participants of two large Dutch datasets, Lifelines and LISS, to construct indices capturing one’s `genetic predisposition’ to different outcomes. Leveraging variation in environments from natural experiments, we will examine how nature and nurture causally interact in the formation of socio-economic status and health. Our research promises a sustained impact by identifying policy interventions that (i) ameliorate genetic, health and socio-economic inequalities, and (ii) allow individuals to reach their genetic potential.

Lifelines and LISS include a large number of parent-child dyads. Such state-of-the-art family designs are rare and allow disentangling genetic inheritance from inheritance of social position and wealth. Furthermore, Lifelines and LISS enable researchers to include survey questions, ensuring all relevant information is available for research. Last, we will facilitate the use of genetic data by making genetic scores available to researchers. All of this will make the data sources highly sought after by researchers around the world. Since Dutch citizens are the object of study, this effectively guarantees significant research output of great relevance to the Netherlands.

LISS and Lifelines have confirmed interest. We have initiated discussions with Pharos (facilitating exchange of scientific / practical knowledge between researchers, policymakers, health professionals and citizens) as a potential partner.


behavior, Health Inequality, nature, Nurture, Socioeconomic Disparities

Other organisations

Erasmus Universiteit (EUR)


Organisation Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)
Name Dr. T.J. (Titus) Galama
E-mail t.j.galama@vu.nl
Website https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/titus-johannes-galama