Alcohol use and alcohol use disorder differ in their genetic relationships with PTSD: A genomic structural equation modelling approach

The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Working Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with increased alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD), which are all moderately heritable. Studies suggest the genetic association between PTSD and alcohol use differs from that of PTSD and AUD, but further analysis is needed. Basic procedures: We used genomic Structural Equation Modeling (genomicSEM) to analyze summary statistics from large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of European Ancestry participants to investigate the genetic relationships between PTSD (both diagnosis and re-experiencing symptom severity) and a range of alcohol use and AUD phenotypes. Main findings: When we differentiated genetic factors for alcohol use and AUD we observed improved model fit relative to models with all alcohol-related indicators loading onto a single factor. The genetic correlations (rG) of PTSD were quite discrepant for the alcohol use and AUD factors. This was true when modeled as a three-correlated-factor model (PTSD-AUD rG:.36, p < .001; PTSD-alcohol use rG: −0.17, p < .001) and as a Bifactor model, in which the common and unique portions of alcohol phenotypes were pulled out into an AUD-specific factor (rG with PTSD:.40, p < .001), AU-specific factor (rG with PTSD: −0.57, p < .001), and a common alcohol factor (rG with PTSD:.16, NS). Principal conclusions: These results indicate the genetic architecture of alcohol use and AUD are differentially associated with PTSD. When the portions of variance unique to alcohol use and AUD are extracted, their genetic associations with PTSD vary substantially, suggesting different genetic architectures of alcohol phenotypes in people with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109430
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol use
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Genetic architecture
  • Genetic correlation
  • Genomic structural equation modeling (genomicSEM)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


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