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Neighborhood alcohol outlet density and genetic influences on alcohol use: evidence for gene–environment interaction

  • Wendy S. Slutske (a1), Arielle R. Deutsch (a1) and Thomas M. Piasecki (a1)

Genetic influences on alcohol involvement are likely to vary as a function of the ‘alcohol environment,’ given that exposure to alcohol is a necessary precondition for genetic risk to be expressed. However, few gene–environment interaction studies of alcohol involvement have focused on characteristics of the community-level alcohol environment. The goal of this study was to examine whether living in a community with more alcohol outlets would facilitate the expression of the genetic propensity to drink in a genetically-informed national survey of United States young adults.


The participants were 2434 18–26-year-old twin, full-, and half-sibling pairs from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Participants completed in-home interviews in which alcohol use was assessed. Alcohol outlet densities were extracted from state-level liquor license databases aggregated at the census tract level to derive the density of outlets.


There was evidence that the estimates of genetic and environmental influences on alcohol use varied as a function of the density of alcohol outlets in the community. For example, the heritability of the frequency of alcohol use for those residing in a neighborhood with ten or more outlets was 74% (95% confidence limits = 55–94%), compared with 16% (95% confidence limits = 0–34%) for those in a neighborhood with zero outlets. This moderating effect of alcohol outlet density was not explained by the state of residence, population density, or neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics.


The results suggest that living in a neighborhood with many alcohol outlets may be especially high-risk for those individuals who are genetically predisposed to frequently drink.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Wendy Slutske, E-mail:
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