Peer drinking is one of the most robust predictors of college students’ alcohol use and can moderate students’ genetic risk for alcohol use. A study used a genetically informed sample of randomly assigned college roommates to examine multiple dimensions of peer influence and the interplay between peer effects and genetic predisposition on alcohol use, in the form of polygenic scores.
755 participants from a university-wide, longitudinal study at a large, diverse, urban university reported their alcohol use during fall and spring and their perceptions of college peers’ alcohol use in spring. We matched individuals into their rooms and residence halls to create a composite score of peer-reported alcohol use for each of those levels. We examined multiple
dimensions of peer influence and whether peer influence moderated genetic predisposition to predict college students’ alcohol use using multilevel models to account for clustering at the room and residence hall level.
We found that polygenic scores (β = 0.12), perceptions of peer drinking (β = 0.37), and roommates’ self-reported drinking (β = 0.10) predicted alcohol use, while average alcohol use across residence hall did not. No evidence was found for interactions between peer influence and genome-wide polygenic scores for alcohol use.
The findings underscore the importance of genetic predisposition on individual alcohol use and support the potentially causal nature of the association between peer influence and alcohol use.
Source: Genes, Roommates, and Residence Halls: A Multidimensional Study of the Role of Peer Drinking
on College Students’ Alcohol Use. Smith RL, Salvatore JE, Aliev F, Neale Z, Barr P; Dick DM. Alcoholism: Clinical
and Experimental Research, 29 April 2019.