Alcohol dependence symptoms and consumption measures were examined for stability and heritability. Data were collected from 12,045 individuals (5376 twin pairs, 1293 single twins) aged 19 to 90 years in telephone interviews conducted in three collection phases. Phases 1 and 2 were independent samples, but Phase 3 targeted families of smokers and drinkers from the Phase 1 and 2 samples.
The stability of dependence symptoms and consumption was examined for 1158 individuals interviewed in both Phases 1 and 3 (mean interval = 11.0 years). For 1818 individuals interviewed in Phases 2 and 3 (mean interval = 5.5 years) the stability of consumption was examined. Heritability was examined for each collection phase and retest samples from the selected Phase 3 collection. The measures examined were a dependence score, based on DSM-IIIR and DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence, and a quantity × frequency measure.
Measures were moderately stable, with test–retest correlations ranging from .58 to .61 for dependence and from .55 to .64 for consumption.
However, the pattern of changes over time for dependence suggested that the measure may more strongly reflect recent than lifetime experience.
Similar to previous findings, heritabilities ranged from .42 to .51 for dependence and from .31 to .51 for consumption. Consumption was significantly less heritable in the younger Phase 2 cohort (23–39 years) compared to the older Phase 1 cohort (28–90 years).
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