Twin Research and Human Genetics


Shared Genetic Vulnerability for Disordered Gambling and Alcohol Use Disorder in Men and Women: Evidence from a National Community-Based Australian Twin Study

Wendy S. Slutskea1 c1, Jarrod M. Ellingsona1, Leah S. Richmond-Rakerda1, Gu Zhua2 and Nicholas G. Martina2

a1 University of Missouri, Department of Psychological Sciences, Columbia, MO, USA

a2 Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Disordered gambling (DG) will soon be included along with the substance use disorders in a revised diagnostic category of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 called ‘Substance Use and Addictive Disorders’. This was premised in part on the common etiologies of DG and the substance use disorders. Using data from the national community-based Australian Twin Registry, we used biometric model fitting to examine the extent to which the genetic liabilities for DG and alcohol use disorder (AUD) were shared, and whether this differed for men and women. The effect of using categorical versus dimensional DG and AUD phenotypes was explored, as was the effect of using diagnoses based on the DSM-IV and the proposed DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. The genetic correlations between DG and AUD ranged from 0.29 to 0.44. There was a significantly larger genetic correlation between DG and AUD among men than women when using dimensional phenotypes. Overall, about one-half to two-thirds of the association between DG and AUD was due to a shared genetic vulnerability. This study represents one of the few empirical demonstrations of an overlap in the genetic risk for DG and another substance-related addictive disorder. More research is needed on the genetic overlap between DG and other substance use disorders, as well as the genetic overlap between DG and other (non-substance-related) psychiatric disorders.

(Received January 31 2013)

(Accepted February 05 2013)


  • disordered gambling;
  • alcohol use disorder;
  • genetic influences;
  • twin study;
  • sex differences;
  • comorbidity


c1 address for correspondence: Wendy S. Slutske, Department of Psychological Sciences, 210 McAlester Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. E-mail: