Identification of 371 genetic variants for age at first sex and birth linked to externalising behaviour

LifeLines Cohort Study, eQTLgen Consortium, BIOS Consortium, Management Team, Cohort collection, Data Generation, Data management and computational infrastructure, Data Analysis Group, Human Reproductive Behaviour Consortium

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Age at first sexual intercourse and age at first birth have implications for health and evolutionary fitness. In this genome-wide association study (age at first sexual intercourse, N = 387,338; age at first birth, N = 542,901), we identify 371 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, 11 sex-specific, with a 5–6% polygenic score prediction. Heritability of age at first birth shifted from 9% [CI = 4–14%] for women born in 1940 to 22% [CI = 19–25%] for those born in 1965. Signals are driven by the genetics of reproductive biology and externalising behaviour, with key genes related to follicle stimulating hormone (FSHB), implantation (ESR1), infertility and spermatid differentiation. Our findings suggest that polycystic ovarian syndrome may lead to later age at first birth, linking with infertility. Late age at first birth is associated with parental longevity and reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Higher childhood socioeconomic circumstances and those in the highest polygenic score decile (90%+) experience markedly later reproductive onset. Results are relevant for improving teenage and late-life health, understanding longevity and guiding experimentation into mechanisms of infertility.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1717-1730
    Number of pages14
    JournalNature human behaviour
    Issue number12
    StatePublished - Dec 2021


    • Adolescent
    • Age Factors
    • Coitus/physiology
    • Female
    • Genetic Association Studies
    • Humans
    • Male
    • Parturition/genetics
    • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
    • Reproduction/genetics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Social Psychology
    • Behavioral Neuroscience


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