Age at Menarche and Time Spent in Education: a Mendelian Randomization Study
Del Greco M F
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Menarche signifies the primary event in female puberty and is associated with changes in self-identity. It is not clear whether earlier puberty causes girls to spend less time in education. Observational studies on this topic are likely to be affected by confounding environmental factors. The Mendelian randomization (MR) approach addresses these issues by using genetic variants (such as single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs) as proxies for the risk factor of interest. We use this technique to explore whether there is a causal effect of age at menarche on time spent in education. Instruments and SNP-age at menarche estimates are identified from a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) meta-analysis of 182,416 women of European descent. The effects of instruments on time spent in education are estimated using a GWAS meta-analysis of 118,443 women performed by the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC). In our main analysis, we demonstrate a small but statistically significant causal effect of age at menarche on time spent in education: a 1 year increase in age at menarche is associated with 0.14 years (53 days) increase in time spent in education (95% CI 0.10-0.21 years, p = 3.5 × 10-8). The causal effect is confirmed in sensitivity analyses. In identifying this positive causal effect of age at menarche on time spent in education, we offer further insight into the social effects of puberty in girls.