Social welfare support runs in families. Recent studies using Nordic registry data have found individual differences in genetic factors to be of substantial importance for medical benefits. However, to date there has been no genetically informative studies on receiving social welfare support. To prevent young adults to not drop out of the work life and become recipients of social welfare support, it is of substantial interest to clarify to what extent the familiarity of social welfare support is due to genetic or social differences between families. We used data from the Historical-Event Database on 7,698 Norwegian twins born 1967-1979 to estimate the relative contribution of genetic factors, the effective familial environment (i.e. the “shared environment”), and individual-specific environmental factors. We found that the two forms of familial risk, genetic and shared environmental, explained 39% and 45%, respectively, of the risk for receiving social welfare support among young Norwegian twins. Only 17% of the variance in risk factors could be explained by individual-specific risk factors. It appears that risk for receiving social welfare support can to a great extent be explained by environmental differences between families. Therefore prevention strategies targeting social inequalities between families would indeed be effective. Furthermore, genetic risk factors are also important in explaining risk for receiving social welfare support. These effects could be mediated through heritable traits related to substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and personality. Individual-specific risk factors were of very little importance. Hence, with regard to receiving social welfare support, family matters.
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