Heritability of problem drinking and the genetic overlap with personality in a general population sample

  • de Moor M
  • Vink J
  • van Beek J
 et al. 
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This study examined the heritability of problem drinking and investigated the phenotypic and genetic relationships between problem drinking and personality. In a sample of 5,870 twins and siblings and 4,420 additional family members from the Netherlands Twin Register. Data on problem drinking (assessed with the AUDIT and CAGE; 12 items) and personality [NEO Five-Factor Inventory (FFI); 60 items] were collected in 2009/2010 by surveys. Confirmatory factor analysis on the AUDIT and CAGE items showed that the items clustered on two separate but highly correlated (r = 0.74) underlying factors. A higher-order factor was extracted that reflected those aspects of problem drinking that are common to the AUDIT and CAGE, which showed a heritability of 40%. The correlations between problem drinking and the five dimensions of personality were small but significant, ranging from 0.06 for Extraversion to -0.12 for Conscientiousness. All personality dimensions (with broad-sense heritabilities between 32 and 55%, and some evidence for non-additive genetic influences) were genetically correlated with problem drinking. The genetic correlations were small to modest (between |0.12| and |0.41|). Future studies with longitudinal data and DNA polymorphisms are needed to determine the biological mechanisms that underlie the genetic link between problem drinking and personality.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Factor analysis
  • Five-factor model
  • Genetic correlation
  • Heritability
  • Personality
  • Problem drinking
  • Twins

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  • Eco de GeusVrije Universiteit Amsterdam, department of Biological Psychology

  • Marleen H.M. de Moor

  • Jacqueline M. Vink

  • Jenny H.D.A. van Beek

  • Lot M. Geels

  • Meike Bartels

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