People with at least one parent with alcohol use disorder (AUD) have a higher rate of alcohol-related and other diseases compared with people whose parents did not have AUD, a study in Addiction suggests.
Charlotte Holst, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Public Health and University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen and colleagues analyzed data from 14,008 people born in Denmark between 1962 and 2003 who had at least one parent with AUD and matched them with 139,087 people born to parents without AUD. They followed the individuals in the sample from their 15th birthday onward, through 2018. The researchers obtained information on somatic diseases and emergency department contacts from the Danish National Patient Registry. They examined data about the individuals’ history of alcohol-related, blood, cancer, circulatory, digestive, endocrine and metabolic, genitourinary, infectious, musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, and skin diseases. They also obtained data on overall mortality and alcohol-related mortality from the Danish Cause of Death Registry.
Compared with people born to parents without AUD, people born to parents with AUD had nearly three times the rate of alcohol-related diseases. This group also had 30% greater rate of infectious diseases, 28% greater rate of blood diseases, 26% greater rate of respiratory diseases, and 21% greater rate of digestive diseases. People born to parents with AUD had nearly twice the rate of dying of any cause and more than three times the rate of alcohol-related deaths compared with children born to parents without AUD.
One explanation for the higher rates of disease and death among people born to parents with AUD may be “that children who grow up with parental AUD are more likely than their peers to experience adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as physical and sexual abuse or parental separation or divorce,” the authors wrote. “Also, families affected by AUD may be characterised by lack of parenting, less parental resources, and parental mental health problems.”
The researchers wrote that these circumstances may affect a person’s way of coping with life in general such that people who have experienced ACEs turn to high-risk behaviors to deal with stress and adverse life events later in life.
For more information, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “A Contagion Model for Within-Family Transmission of Drug Abuse.”
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