Newswise – New research has shown that friends and family can provide support for people who are at high risk of developing alcoholism.
The study was published in Journal of Abnormal Psychology. It found that problematic alcohol intake can be caused by a combination of personality type and genetic predisposition. A strong social support network from friends can protect against excessive drinking.
“People who have alcohol problems are often stigmatized and viewed as moral failings or personal choices. Jinni Su is an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University. She was the lead author of the study and said that genes play an important part in alcohol consumption. “Understanding how genes link to complex behavior and interact with the environment allows us to identify targeted ways to intervene or prevent problems,” she stated.
Genetic risk of problem drinking behaviors was assessed using a rating called the genome-wide polygenic score. This aggregate score measures how a particular trait is linked to an entire genome, in this instance alcohol use.
Participants with an elevated genetic risk for problem drinking behaviors were likely to have sensation-seeking personalities. This personality trait is characterized by a desire to seek out new experiences. Researchers found that people with this combination of genes and their desire for sensation were more likely to drink alcohol.
” This finding may offer a way to help people with genetic risk channel their predispositions in healthy ways. Su stated that knowing that people at higher risk of alcohol misuse have more sensation-seeking personality characteristics means we can encourage them to try new activities such as rock climbing, instead of drinking.
The study also looked at how people’s environments affected their genetic risk of problem drinking. Researchers looked at how social relationships affected genetic risk and personality traits regarding alcohol consumption. People with high genetic risk and sensory-seeking tendencies were more likely to have strong friendships than those who had problem drinking habits.
“Genetic risks are not the same for everyone and can be affected in different ways by our environment like social relationships. Poor social relationships are more common for people who have a predisposition to alcohol misuse. Su stated that social support can help reduce the risk of alcoholism and genetic risk.
Su was joined by Fazil Aliev and Danielle Dick of Virginia Commonwealth University, Grace Chan of Indiana University, and Chella Kamarajan of State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. Jay Tischfield of Rutgers University and Marc Schuckit of University of California, San Diego.
This study was funded in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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