Educational attainment may affect the risk of alcoholism

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In the U.S., more than 15 million people struggle with alcoholism. As a result, a number of past studies have attempted to uncover more efficient treatment possibilities, including the potential effects of educational attainment (EA).

Although previous findings have made an effort with no avail, a new study provides considerable results, indicating that higher educational attainment may lower the risk of alcoholism. The results appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

By using the recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS), a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health were able to assess the effects of educational attainment and alcoholism on an estimated 780,000 participants.

As part of the study, researchers examined the genetic data of all participants, including a set of 53 genetic variants linked to educational attainment and alcoholism in prior studies.

Researchers tested if any of the 53 genetic variants linked to educational attainment was indicated in the DNA of individuals who exhibited varying behavior associated with excessive alcohol use. Upon reviewing the findings, it was determined that higher educational attainment lowered the risk of alcoholism.

Falk Lohoff, the study’s co-author, writes: “Using data from a total of approximately 780,000 study participants, we found that genetic variants associated with an additional 3.61 years of schooling were associated with an approximately 50% reduced risk of alcohol dependence.”

“The presence of genetic variants associated with educational attainment also affected the pattern of alcohol use and type of alcoholic beverage people consumed,” Lohoff adds.

“The possible effect of educational attainment on drinking that we show in this study, suggests that increasing educational attainment may be a useful target for prevention programs against problematic alcohol use, alcohol dependence, and their consequences.”

Given the new findings, researchers proclaim that higher educational attainment might be a new area of interest for therapeutic strategies targetting alcoholism.

“In conjunction with the evidence demonstrating the causal role of education on other health behaviors, our findings suggest that increasing EA may be a useful target for prevention programs against problematic alcohol use and its consequences,” the authors concluded.