Stressful life events increase aggression and alcohol use in young carriers of the GABRA2 rs279826/rs279858 A-allele

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Aug;27(8):816-827. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Feb 23.


Research of GABRA2 gene in alcohol use and impulse control suggests its role in aggressive behaviour. The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of GABRA2 genotype and stressful life events on aggressive behaviour, alcohol use frequency and occurrence of alcohol use disorder in a population representative sample of adolescents followed up from third grade to 25 years of age. The sample consisted of the younger cohort of the longitudinal Estonian Children Personality, Behaviour and Health Study. Aggressive behaviour was rated with the activity scale of af Klinteberg, Illinois Bully Scale and Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire. Stressful life events and alcohol use were self-reported. Life history of aggression and lifetime occurrence of psychiatric disorders were estimated in a structured interview. The sample was genotyped for GABRA2 rs279826 and rs279858 polymorphisms that are in strong linkage disequilibrium and yielded very similar findings: Higher number of stressful life events reported at age 15 was associated with increased fighting in A-allele carriers, but not in GG homozygotes. At age 25, A-allele carriers with more stressful life events scored higher on physical aggression than those with less stress, and this was also observed regarding life history of aggression. A-allele carriers exposed to higher stress had consumed alcoholic beverages more frequently at age 15, and by age 25, they had alcohol use disorder with higher prevalence. The results of the present study suggest that the GABRA2 genotype interacts with stress in young people with impact on the development of alcohol use and aggressive behaviour.

Keywords: Aggression; Alcohol use; ECPBHS; GABRA2; Longitudinal study; Stressful life events.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • GABRA2 protein, human
  • Receptors, GABA-A