Alcohol Misuse Across the Life Span: Insights From Developmental Studies in Behavior Genetics

Jeanne E. Savage*, Elizabeth C. Long, Sally I.Chun Kuo, Megan E. Cooke, Jinni Su, Peter B. Barr, Jessica E. Salvatore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Alcohol misuse, one of today’s greatest public health challenges, is a developmentally dynamic, complex behavior at the intersection of genetic and environmental influences. This review examines such influences from a behavior genetics perspective and discusses implications for public policy. Alcohol misuse is moderately heritable with genetic influences accounting for around 50% of its variance, but to date, few specific genes have been identified. However, numerous environmental and social factors moderate genetic risk, including parents, peers, romantic partners, family dynamics, employment, laws, and cultural influences. These moderating factors change in salience across development, and accordingly, no one-size-fits-all approach is suitable for reducing alcohol misuse at a large scale. We provide examples of some effective prevention and intervention programs and discuss a framework for using the behavior genetics evidence to inform future public policy efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-193
Number of pages8
JournalPolicy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol misuse
  • alcohol use disorder
  • behavior genetics
  • development
  • public policy


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