Lower digit ratio (2D:4D) in alcohol dependence: Confirmation and exploratory analysis in a population-based study of young men

Addict Biol. 2020 Jul;25(4):e12815. doi: 10.1111/adb.12815. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Moderately sized, case-control studies have related alcohol dependence in middle-aged in-patients to lower second-to-fourth finger length ratio (2D:4D), a proxy for prenatal hyperandrogenization. As primary aim, we here intended to confirm that lower 2D:4D is also associated with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV/-5 alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder in a large population-based cohort of young males. Exploratory aims included underlying mechanisms. We analyzed self-reported data on 2D:4D, DSM-IV/-5 criteria, anticipated subjective responses to alcohol, and willingness to purchase alcoholic drinks from 4989 Swiss men of the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors (C-SURF). The mean of right-hand 2D:4D and left-hand 2D:4D was lower in men with DSM-IV alcohol dependence than in those without (0.975 vs 0.981, P = .035) and lower in men with moderate to severe (0.974) than in those with mild (0.982, P = .001) or no (0.981, P = .003) DSM-5 alcohol use disorder. Moreover, mean 2D:4D was lower in those reporting recent use of health services due to substance use problems (0.968 vs 0.981, P = .046). Lower mean 2D:4D correlated with a stronger anticipation to feel high following alcohol consumption (total cohort: ρ = -0.033, P = .026) and with a willingness to purchase more higher-priced alcoholic drinks (DSM-IV alcohol dependence subgroup: ρmin = -0.162, P = .002). This is the first population-based study on young males to demonstrate lower 2D:4D in DSM-IV alcohol dependence, DSM-5 alcohol use disorder, and the related use of health care services. We also provide novel insight into cognitive-behavioral mechanisms. These results should help to establish more effective preventive and therapeutic strategies targeting 2D:4D and prenatal androgen exposure.

Keywords: 2D:4D; alcohol dependence; alcohol use disorder; digit ratio.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Economics, Behavioral
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult