High-Intensity Drinking in Adult Australian Twins

Genevieve F. Dash, Christal N. Davis, Nicholas G. Martin, Dixie J. Statham, Michael T. Lynskey, Wendy S. Slutske*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many adult drinkers consume far beyond the binge threshold. This “high-intensity drinking” (HID), defined as 2 (HID-2) and 3 (HID-3) times the binge threshold, is of public health interest due to its role in acute alcohol-related harms. Research on HID has mostly been limited to college-aged young adults, focused on contextual factors, and neglected the potential role of genetic influences on the propensity to engage in HID. Methods: Structured diagnostic interviews assessing past-year alcohol involvement were conducted with 3,785 individuals (1,365 men, 2,420 women; Mage = 32, range = 21 to 46), including 3,314 twins and 471 nontwin siblings from the Australian Twin Registry. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to compare HID-2 and HID-3 to binge drinking on demographic correlates, drinking characteristics, and drinking-related consequences. Biometric modeling was conducted to estimate the role of genetic, common, and individual-specific environmental factors in HID propensity. Results: Among past-year drinkers, the prevalence of HID-2 and HID-3 was both 22%, with men disproportionally represented. The frequencies of drinking, intoxication, and binge drinking significantly increased across the heavier drinking categories, which also evidenced higher average consumption quantities and higher rates of alcohol-related consequences. The propensity to engage in HID was significantly heritable (A = 37% [95% CI: 28 to 46%]), with individual-specific environmental influences accounting for the remainder of the variance. Conclusions: This study convincingly demonstrates that HID is not restricted to college-aged young adults, but also can be highly prevalent among those of working age, and that the propensity to engage in HID is partially explained by genetic influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-531
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Alcohol
  • Binge Drinking
  • High-Intensity Drinking
  • Twin Study


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