Environmental influences on familial resemblance for drug abuse in first-cousin pairs: A Swedish national study

K. S. Kendler, H. Ohlsson, K. Sundquist, J. Sundquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background. Using three independent methods, prior studies in Swedish sibling pairs indicate that environmental factors contribute substantially to familial aggregation for drug abuse (DA). Could we replicate these results in cousin pairs? Method Using multiple Swedish public databases (1964-2011), we defined DA using medical, legal or pharmacy registry records and examined concordance in full cousin pairs as a function of age differences, younger-older relationships and geographical proximity while growing up. Results. Replicating prior results in siblings, cousin pairs were significantly more similar in their history of DA if they were (i) closer versus more distant in age and (ii) grew up in high versus low geographical proximity to one another. Furthermore, controlling for background factors, having an older cousin with DA conveys a greater risk for DA than having a younger drug-abusing cousin. The greater transmission of DA from older to younger versus younger to older cousin was more prominent in pairs who grew up close to one another. In age difference and geographical proximity analyses, effects were consistently strongest in male-male cousin pairs. In analyses of older → younger versus younger → older transmission, effects were stronger in male-male and male-female than in female-female or female-male relative pairs. Conclusions. In accord with prior results in siblings, environmental factors contribute substantially to the familial aggregation of DA in cousins and these effects are, in general, stronger in males than in females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug abuse
  • Environmental transmission
  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics
  • Sweden


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