Stability and Change in Etiological Factors for Alcohol Use Disorder and Major Depression

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Abstract

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are often comorbid. It is not understood how genetic risk factors for these disorders relate to each other over time and to what degree they are stable. Age-dependent characteristics of the disorders indicate that different genetic factors could be relevant at different stages of life, and MDD may become increasingly correlated with AUD over time. DSM–IV diagnoses of AUD and MDD were assessed by interviews of 2,801 young adult twins between 1999 and 2004 (T1) and 2,284 of the same twins between 2010 and 2011 (T2). Stability, change, and covariation were investigated in longitudinal biometric models. New genetic factors explained 56.4% of the genetic variance in AUD at T2. For MDD, there was full overlap between genetic influences at T1 and T2. Genetic risk factors for MDD were related to AUD, but their association with AUD did not increase over time. Thus, genetic risk factors for AUD, but not MDD, vary with age, suggesting that AUD has age-dependent heritable etiologies. Molecular genetic studies of AUD may therefore benefit from stratifying by age. The new genetic factors in AUD were not related to MDD. Environmental influences on the 2 disorders were correlated in middle, but not in young adulthood. The environmental components for AUD correlated over time (r = .27), but not for MDD. Environmental influences on AUD can have long-lasting effects, and the effects of preventive efforts may be enduring. Environment influences seem to be largely transient.

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