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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 1997 Aug;106(8):624-32.

Distribution and heritability of recurrent ear infections.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, National Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.


The distribution of recurrent ear infections was obtained from a population-based sample of 2,750 pairs of Norwegian twins born between 1967 and 1974. The lifetime prevalence of self-reported recurrent ear infections was 8.9%, with a significant predominance of female cases. The mean age of onset was 4.2 years, with a gradual decrease in occurrence from 2 to 7 years of age. Among monozygotic pairs, the rate of tetrachoric correlation between co-twins was almost identical in males (0.73, SE 0.08) and females (0.74, SE 0.06), but among the dizygotic pairs the correlation was clearly higher in males (0.53, SE 0.12) than in females (0.20, SE 0.12). The value in the unlike-sexed dizygotic twins (0.25, SE 0.05) was intermediate to that of the like-sexed male and female dizygotic pairs. The relative contribution of genes and environment to variability in the predisposition to develop otitis media was estimated by means of structural equation modeling. Variation in liability to ear infections was mainly explained by additive genetic and dominance factors in females, for whom heritability was estimated at 74%. The remaining 26% of the variation in liability was explained by individual environmental factors. In males, 45% of the variation could be accounted for by genetic factors, 29% by common familial environment, and the remaining 26% by individual environmental effects.

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