Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The heritability of alcohol use disorders: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies

  • B. Verhulst (a1), M. C. Neale (a1) (a2) and K. S. Kendler (a1) (a2)

Abstract

Background.

To clarify the role of genetic and environmental risk factors in alcohol use disorders (AUDs), we performed a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies and explored the impact of sex, assessment method (interview v. hospital/population records), and study design (twin v. adoption study) on heritability estimates.

Method.

The literature was searched for all unique twin and adoption studies of AUD and identified 12 twin and five adoption studies. The data were then reconstructed and analyzed using ordinal data full information maximum likelihood in the OpenMx program. Heterogeneity was tested with likelihood ratio tests by equating the parameters across studies.

Results.

There was no evidence for heterogeneity by study design, sex or assessment method. The best-fit estimate of the heritability of AUD was 0.49 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.43–0.53], and the proportion of shared environmental variance was 0.10 (95% CI 0.03–0.16). Estimates of unique environmental proportions of variance differed significantly across studies.

Conclusions.

AUD is approximately 50% heritable. The multiple genetically informative studies of this syndrome have produced consistent results that support the validity of this heritability estimate, especially given the different potential methodological weaknesses of twin and adoption designs, and of assessments of AUD based on personal interviews v. official records. We also found evidence for modest shared environmental effects suggesting that environmental factors also contribute to the familial aggregation of AUDs.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The heritability of alcohol use disorders: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The heritability of alcohol use disorders: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The heritability of alcohol use disorders: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

* Address for correspondence: K. S. Kendler, M.D., Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics of VCU, Box 980126, Richmond, VA 23298-0126, USA. (Email: kendler@vcu.edu)

References

Hide All
Allgulander, C, Nowak, J, Rice, JP (1991). Psychopathology and treatment of 30,344 twins in Sweden. II. Heritability estimates of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment in 12,884 twin pairs. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 83, 1215.
APA (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edn. American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC.
Bohman, M, Sigvardsson, S, Cloninger, CR (1981). Maternal inheritance of alcohol abuse. Cross-fostering analysis of adopted women. Archives of General Psychiatry 38, 965969.
Boker, S, Neale, M, Maes, H, Wilde, M, Spiegel, M, Brick, T, Spies, J, Estabrook, R, Kenny, S, Bates, T, Mehta, P, Fox, J (2011). OpenMx: an open source extended structural equation modeling framework. Psychometrika 76, 306317.
Boker, SM, Neale, MC, Maes, HH, Wilde, MJ, Spiegel, M, Brick, TR, Estabrook, R, Bates, TC, Mehta, P, von Oertzen, T, Gore, RJ, Hunter, MD, Hackett, DC, Karch, J, Brandmaier, A (2012). OpenMx 1.2 User Guide.
Bynum, WF (1984). Alcoholism and degeneration in 19th century European medicine and psychiatry. British Journal of Addiction 79, 5970.
Cadoret, RJ, Troughton, E, O'Gorman, TW (1987). Genetic and environmental factors in alcohol abuse and antisocial personality. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 48, 18.
Caldwell, CB, Gottesman, I (1991). Sex differences in the risk for alcoholism: a twin study. Paper presented at the 21st Annual Meeting of the Behavior Genetics Association, 7 June 1991, St Louis, MO, USA.
Cloninger, CR, Bohman, M, Sigvardsson, S (1981). Inheritance of alcohol abuse. Cross-fostering analysis of adopted men. Archives of General Psychiatry 38, 861868.
Cotton, NS (1979). The familial incidence of alcoholism: a review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 40, 89116. available from: PM:376949.
Dick, DM, Bierut, LJ (2006). The genetics of alcohol dependence. Current Psychiatry Reports 8, 151157.
Goodwin, DW, Schulsinger, F, Hermansen, L, Guze, SB, Winokur, G (1973). Alcohol problems in adoptees raised apart from alcoholic biological parents. Archives of General Psychiatry 28, 238243
Goodwin, DW, Schulsinger, F, Knop, J, Mednick, S, Guze, SB (1977). Alcoholism and depression in adopted-out daughters of alcoholics. Archives of General Psychiatry 34, 751755.
Grant, BF (1997). Prevalence and correlates of alcohol use and DSM-IV alcohol dependence in the United States: results of the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 58, 464473.
Gurling, HM, Oppenheim, BE, Murray, RM (1984). Depression, criminality and psychopathology associated with alcoholism: evidence from a twin study. Acta Geneticae Medicae Gemellologiae (Roma) 33, 333339.
Hasin, DS, Stinson, FS, Ogburn, E, Grant, BF (2007). Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence in the United States: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry 64, 830842.
Heath, AC (1995). Genetic influences on alcoholism risk: a review of adoption and twin studies. Alcohol Health and Research World 19, 166171.
Heath, AC, Bucholz, KK, Madden, PA, Dinwiddie, SH, Slutske, WS, Bierut, LJ, Statham, DJ, Dunne, MP, Whitfield, JB, Martin, NG (1997). Genetic and environmental contributions to alcohol dependence risk in a national twin sample: consistency of findings in women and men. Psychological Medicine 27, 13811396.
Hrubec, Z, Omenn, GS (1981). Evidence of genetic predisposition to alcoholic cirrhosis and psychosis: twin concordances for alcoholism and its biological end points by zygosity among male veterans. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 5, 207215.
Kaij, L (1960). Alcoholism in Twins: Studies on Etiology and Sequels of Abuse of Alcohol. Almqvist and Wiksell International: Stockholm.
Keller, MC, Medland, SE, Duncan, LE (2010). Are extended twin family designs worth the trouble? A comparison of the bias, precision, and accuracy of parameters estimated in four twin family models. Behavior Genetics 40, 377393.
Kendler, KS (2001). Twin studies of psychiatric illness: an update. Archives of General Psychiatry 58, 10051014.
Kendler, KS, Heath, AC, Neale, MC, Kessler, RC, Eaves, LJ (1992). A population-based twin study of alcoholism in women. Journal of the American Medical Association 268, 18771882.
Kendler, KS, Prescott, CA, Neale, MC, Pedersen, NL (1997). Temperance board registration for alcohol abuse in a national sample of Swedish male twins, born 1902 to 1949. Archives of General Psychiatry 54, 178184.
Kessler, RC, McGonagle, KA, Zhao, S, Nelson, CB, Hughes, M, Eshleman, S, Wittchen, HU, Kendler, KS (1994). Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States. Results from the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry 51, 819.
Knopik, VS, Heath, AC, Madden, PA, Bucholz, KK, Slutske, WS, Nelson, EC, Statham, D, Whitfield, JB, Martin, NG (2004). Genetic effects on alcohol dependence risk: re-evaluating the importance of psychiatric and other heritable risk factors. Psychological Medicine 34, 15191530.
Loehlin, JC (1992). Genes and Environment in Personality Development. Sage Publications: Newbury Park, CA.
Maes, HH, Neale, MC, Kendler, KS, Hewitt, JK, Silberg, JL, Foley, DL, Meyer, JM, Rutter, M, Simonoff, E, Pickles, A, Eaves, LJ (1998). Assortative mating for major psychiatric diagnoses in two population-based samples. Psychological Medicine 28, 13891401.
Magnusson, A, Lundholm, C, Goransson, M, Copeland, W, Heilig, M, Pedersen, NL (2012). Familial influence and childhood trauma in female alcoholism. Psychological Medicine 42, 381389.
Martin, NG, Eaves, LJ, Kearsey, MJ, Davies, P (1978). The power of the classical twin study. Heredity 40, 97116.
McGue, M, Pickens, RW, Svikis, DS (1992). Sex and age effects on the inheritance of alcohol problems: a twin study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 101, 317.
Neale, MC, Cardon, LR (1992). Methodology for Genetic Studies of Twins and Families. Kluwer Academic Publishers B.V.: Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
Neale, MC, Eaves, LJ, Kendler, KS (1994). The power of the classical twin study to resolve variation in threshold traits. Behavior Genetics 24, 239258.
Pickens, RW, Svikis, DS, McGue, M, Lykken, DT, Heston, LL, Clayton, PJ (1991). Heterogeneity in the inheritance of alcoholism. A study of male and female twins. Archives of General Psychiatry 48, 1928.
Prescott, CA, Aggen, SH, Kendler, KS (1999). Sex differences in the sources of genetic liability to alcohol abuse and dependence in a population-based sample of U.S. twins. Alcohol Clinical Experimental Research 23, 11361144.
Prescott, CA, Gottesman, I (1993). Power limitations in detecting heterogeneity of genetic effects: the case of sex differences in alcoholism. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Research on Psychopathology, Chicago, October 1993.
Prescott, CA, Kendler, KS (1995). Gender and genetic vulnerability to alcoholism. In Stress, Gender, and Alcohol Seeking Behavior, NIH Pub. No. 95-3893 (ed. Hunt, W. A. and Zakhari, S.), pp. 2346. National Institutes of Health: Bethesda, MD.
Reed, T, Page, WF, Viken, RJ, Christian, JC (1996). Genetic predisposition to organ-specific endpoints of alcoholism. Alcohol Clinical Experimental Research 20, 15281533.
Rhee, SH, Waldman, ID (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: a meta- analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychological Bulletin 128, 490529.
Romanov, K, Kaprio, J, Rose, RJ, Koskenvuo, M (1991). Genetics of alcoholism: effects of migration on concordance rates among male twins. Alcohol and Alcohol Supplement 1, 137140.
Secretary of Health and Human Services (1997). Alcohol and Health: Ninth Special Report to the U.S. Congress from the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, NIAAA.
Sigvardsson, S, Bohman, M, Cloninger, CR (1996). Replication of the Stockholm Adoption Study of alcoholism. Confirmatory cross-fostering analysis. Archives of General Psychiatry 53, 681687.
Sullivan, PF, Kendler, KS, Neale, MC (2003). Schizophrenia as a complex trait: evidence from a meta-analysis of twin studies. Archives of General Psychiatry 60, 11871192.
Sullivan, PF, Neale, MC, Kendler, KS (2000). Genetic epidemiology of major depression: review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry 157, 15521562.
True, WR, Xian, H, Scherrer, JF, Madden, PA, Bucholz, KK, Heath, AC, Eisen, SA, Lyons, MJ, Goldberg, J, Tsuang, M (1999). Common genetic vulnerability for nicotine and alcohol dependence in men. Archives of General Psychiatry 56, 655661.
Wu, H, Neale, MC (2012). Adjusted confidence intervals for a bounded parameter. Behavior Genetics 42, 886898.

Keywords

The heritability of alcohol use disorders: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies

  • B. Verhulst (a1), M. C. Neale (a1) (a2) and K. S. Kendler (a1) (a2)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed