Children of alcoholics more likely to drink

People whose parents are alcoholics are more likely to drink themselves when facing stressful situations. This is the finding of new research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden - which is home to almost 2,000 doctoral students, as well as more than 27,000 full-time scholars - and claimed this type of behaviour can have significant consequences in the long term.

The investigation has been published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biochemistry and Behaviour and Anna Soderpalm Gordh, who carried out the study, said: "The results show that people with parents who have a history of alcohol abuse drink more than others when exposed to stress."

Ms Soderpalm Gordh noted imbibing large quantities can result in individuals becoming dependent on alcohol and observed those who feel the need to open a bottle when stressed should think of other ways to calm themselves down - such as relaxation exercises.

Professor Jim Orford of the University of Birmingham commented: "It has been known for some time that children of parents with alcohol problems (the term alcoholic is not widely used among health professionals in the UK nowadays) are at increased risk of such problems themselves and that stress induces drinking, so these results are not altogether surprising. 

"What is important, however, is not to jump to conclusions about the reasons for some inter-generational continuity of drinking problems, nor to over-estimate the extent of that continuity. 

"Research has shown that part of the mechanism for continuity across the generations is genetic, but genes only account for part of the association. 

"As modern genetic theory would suggest, environment accounts for much also, genes and environment interact in complex ways, what is inherited may be largely non-specific (i.e. what is inherited may be some kind of general disposition, not specific to drinking) and inheritance probably differs from one sub-population to another (for example it may be different for men and women).

"The most important thing to emphasise is that, although there is an increased risk for those with problem drinking parents, the majority of such people do not go on to repeat that pattern. In fact there is a whole literature on the resilience of people who have had parents with drinking problems."