Age at Regular Drinking, Clinical Course, and Heritability of Alcohol Dependence in the San Francisco Family Study

March 1, 2010
Cassandra Vieten, PhD

A Gender Analysis

Ehlers, C. L., Gizer, I. R., Vieten, C., Gilder, A., Gilder, D. A., Stouffer, G. M., Lau, P., … Wilhelmsen, K. C. (2010). Age at regular drinking, clinical course, and heritability of alcohol dependence in the San Francisco family study: a gender analysis. The American Journal on Addictions, 19(2), 101-10.


We examined gender differences in age of onset, clinical course, and heritability of alcohol dependence in 2524 adults participating in the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) family study of alcoholism. Men were significantly more likely than women to have initiated regular drinking during adolescence. Onset of regular drinking was not found to be heritable but was found to be significantly associated with a shorter time to onset of alcohol dependence. A high degree of similarity in the sequence of alcohol-related life events was found between men and women, however, men experienced alcohol dependence symptoms at a younger age and women had a more rapid clinical course. Women were found to have a higher heritability estimate for alcohol dependence (h2 =0.46) than men (h2 =0.32). These findings suggest that environmental factors influencing the initiation of regular drinking rather than genetic factors associated with dependence may in part underlie some of the gender differences seen in the prevalence of alcohol dependence in this population.

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