The associations between polygenic risk, sensation seeking, social support, and alcohol use in adulthood

J Abnorm Psychol. 2021 Jul;130(5):525-536. doi: 10.1037/abn0000568.


Genetic predispositions play an important role in alcohol use. Understanding the psychosocial mechanisms through which genetic risk unfolds to influence alcohol use outcomes is critical for identifying modifiable targets and developing prevention and intervention efforts. In this study, we examined the role of sensation seeking and social support from family and friends in linking genetic risk to alcohol use. We also examined the role of social support in moderating the associations between genetic risk and sensation seeking and alcohol use. Data were drawn from a sample of 2,836 European American adults from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (46% male, mean age = 35.65, standard deviation [SD] = 10.78). Results from path analysis indicated that genome-wide polygenic scores for alcohol consumption (alc-GPS) were associated with higher sensation seeking, which in turn was associated with higher levels of alcohol use. alc-GPS was also associated with higher alcohol use indirectly via lower levels of family support. In addition, high friend support attenuated the association between alc-GPS and sensation seeking and alcohol use. The pattern of associations was similar for males and females, with some differences in the associations between social support and alcohol use observed across age. Our findings highlight the important role of intermediate phenotypes and gene-environment interplay in the pathways of risk from genetic predispositions to complex alcohol use outcomes. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking* / genetics
  • Alcoholism* / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics
  • Sensation
  • Social Support