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Monday, August 8, 2011

Stable Genetic Effects on Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence from Adolescence into Early Adulthood

Relatively little is known about how genetic influences on alcohol abuse and dependence (AAD) change with age.

We examined the change in influence of genetic and environmental factors which explain symptoms of AAD from adolescence into early adulthood. Symptoms of AAD were assessed using the four AAD screening questions of the CAGE inventory. Data were obtained up to six times by self-report questionnaires for 8,398 twins from the Netherlands Twin Register aged between 15 and 32 years. Longitudinal genetic simplex modeling was performed with Mx. Results showed that shared environmental influences were present for age 15–17 (57%) and age 18–20 (18%).

Unique environmental influences gained importance over time, contributing 15% of the variance at age 15–17 and 48% at age 30–32. At younger ages, unique environmental influences were largely age-specific, while at later ages, age-specific influences became less important.

Genetic influences on AAD symptoms over age could be accounted for by one factor, with the relative influence of this factor differing across ages. Genetic influences increased from 28% at age 15–17 to 58% at age 21–23 and remained high in magnitude thereafter.

These results are in line with a developmentally stable hypothesis that predicts that a single set of genetic risk factors acts on symptoms of AAD from adolescence into young adulthood.

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