Heredity May Play Part in Drinking Habits
Genetics could influence motivation to reach for booze, study finds
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Genetic factors may influence a person's motivations to drink, including using alcohol to ease social anxiety and to improve mood.
That's the discovery of a U.S. study in the January issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"We were interested in learning if beliefs about alcohol provided a partial explanation for how risk for alcoholism is transmitted across generations," study first author Carol A. Prescott, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, says in a prepared statement.
"This transmission could be either environmental, in that young adults model the drinking behavior and motivations of their parents, or through genetic mechanisms, meaning there are physiological reasons alcohol is perceived as more pleasurable by some people and this is transmitted from alcoholic parents to their offspring via genes," Prescott says.
"For example, we know that people with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to have positive expectations (about alcohol use) and less likely to have negative ones," she says.
She and her colleagues studied 2,529 female and 3,709 male adult twins and assessed individual differences in the twins' genetic, family environmental and individual environmental factors linked to alcohol use.
The researchers also examined the twins' individual differences in drinking motives: to manage mood, to relieve social anxiety, to improve mental functioning, and for social purposes.
"This study provides evidence that one way in which genetic factors lead to alcoholism is that genetic factors influence drinking motives -- in particular, drinking to alleviate social anxiety. Although motives are still a long way from DNA, they are one step closer to the biology than the clinical disorder of alcoholism," Prescott says.
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