Heritability estimation provides important information about the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to phenotypic variation, and provides an upper bound for the utility of genetic risk prediction models. Recent technological and statistical advances have enabled the estimation of additive heritability attributable to common genetic variants (SNP heritability) across a broad phenotypic spectrum. However, assessing the comparative heritability of multiple traits estimated in different cohorts may be misleading due to the population-specific nature of heritability. Here we report the SNP heritability for 551 complex traits derived from the large-scale, population-based UK Biobank, comprising both quantitative phenotypes and disease codes, and examine the moderating effect of three major demographic variables (age, sex and socioeconomic status) on the heritability estimates. Our study represents the first comprehensive phenome-wide heritability analysis in the UK Biobank, and underscores the importance of considering population characteristics in comparing and interpreting heritability.
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