Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Comorbidity and co-transmission of alcoholism, anxiety and depression

K. R. Merikangasa1 c1, N. J. Rischa1 and M. M. Weissmana1

a1 Departments of Psychiatry, Epidemiology and Public Health, and Human Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; and Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, USA


This paper applies data from a family study of depression to assess patterns of comorbidity and co-transmission of alcoholism, anxiety disorders, and major depression. We found that all three disorders were strongly transmissible; however, alcoholism demonstrated the greatest degree of familial aggregation. The pairwise associations among depression, anxiety and alcoholism indicated that the traits are co-transmitted in families, especially depression and anxiety. Individual associations between traits (or comorbidity) were entirely explained by transmitted (perhaps genetic) agents, because the correlations between traits due to random environment were not significant. These findings have important implications for treatment, psychiatric nosology, and aetiological investigations of these conditions.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Kathleen R. Merikang; s, Genetic Epidemiology Research Unit, Yale University School of Medicine, 40 Temple Street, Lower Level, New Haven, Connectic at 06510–3223, USA.