Background: In this study we ask why spouses resemble each other in smoking behaviour and assess if such resemblance depends on period of data collection or age. Spousal similarity may reflect different, not mutually exclusive, processes. These include phenotypic assortment (choice of spouse is based on phenotype) or social homogamy at the time spouses first meet, and marital interaction during the relationship. Methods: Ever and current smoking were assessed between 1991 and 2013 in surveys of the Netherlands Twin Register for 14,230 twins and 1,949 of their spouses (mean age 31.4 [SD = 14.0]), and 11,536 parents of twins (53.4 [SD = 8.6]). Phenotypic assortment and social homogamy were examined cross-sectionally by calculating the probability of agreement between twins and their spouses, twins and their co-twin's spouse and spouses of both twins as a function of zygosity. Marital interaction was tested by investigating the association between relationship duration and spousal resemblance. Results: Between 1991 and 2013 smoking declined in all age groups for both genders. Spousal resemblance for ever and current smoking was higher when data were more recent. For ever smoking, a higher age of men was associated with lower spousal resemblance. Phenotypic assortment was supported for both smoking measures, but social homogamy could not be excluded. No effect of marital interaction was found. Conclusions: Differences in smoking prevalence across time and age influence spousal similarity. Individuals more often choose a spouse with similar smoking behaviour (phenotypic assortment) causing higher genotypic similarity between them. Given the heritability of smoking this increases genetic risk of smoking in offspring.
- Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)