Background: Major depression and alcohol dependence co-occur within individuals and families to a higher than expected degree. This study investigated whether mood-related drinking motives mediate the association between major depression and alcohol dependence, and what the genetic and environmental bases are for this relationship.
Methods: The sample included 5,181 individuals from the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders, aged 30 and older. Participants completed a clinical interview which assessed lifetime major depression, alcohol dependence, and mood-related drinking motives.
Results: Mood-related drinking motives significantly explained the depression-alcohol dependence relationship at both the phenotypic and familial levels. Results from twin analyses indicated that for both males and females, the familial factors underlying mood-related drinking motives accounted for virtually all of the familial variance that overlaps between depression and alcohol dependence.
Conclusions: The results are consistent with an indirect role for mood-related drinking motives in the etiology of depression and alcohol dependence, and suggest that mood-related drinking motives may be a useful index of vulnerability for these conditions.