J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2011 Mar;72(2):210-20
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Objective: A lower level of education often co-occurs with alcohol problems, but factors underlying this co-occurrence are not well understood. Specifically, whether these outcomes share part of their underlying genetic influences has not been widely studied. Educational level also reflects various environmental influences that may moderate the genetic etiology of alcohol problems, but gene-environment interactions between educational attainment and alcohol problems are unknown.
Method: We studied the two non-mutually exclusive possibilities of common genetic influences and gene-environment interaction between alcohol problems and low education using a population-based sample (n = 4,858) of Finnish young adult twins (M(age) = 24.5 years, range: 22.8-28.6 years). Alcohol problems were assessed with the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index and self-reported maximum number of drinks consumed in a 24-hour period. Years of education, based on completed and ongoing studies, represented educational level.
Results: Educational level was inversely associated with alcohol problems in young adulthood, and this association was most parsimoniously explained by overlapping genetic influences. Independent of this co-occurrence, higher education was associated with increased relative importance of genetic influences on alcohol problems, whereas environmental factors had a greater effect among twins with lower education.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest a complex relationship between educational level and alcohol problems in young adulthood. Lower education is related to higher levels of alcohol problems, and this co-occurrence is influenced by genetic factors affecting both phenotypes. In addition, educational level moderates the importance of genetic and environmental influences on alcohol problems, possibly reflecting differences in social-control mechanisms related to educational level.