Genetic evidence for assortative mating on alcohol consumption in the UK Biobank

Howe, L., Lawson, D. J., Davies, N. M., St Pourcain, B., Lewis, S. J., Smith, G. D., & Hemani, G. (2019). Genetic evidence for assortative mating on alcohol consumption in the UK Biobank. Nature Communications, 10: 5039. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-12424-x.
Alcohol use is correlated within spouse-pairs, but it is difficult to disentangle effects of alcohol consumption on mate-selection from social factors or the shared spousal environment. We hypothesised that genetic variants related to alcohol consumption may, via their effect on alcohol behaviour, influence mate selection. Here, we find strong evidence that an individual’s self-reported alcohol consumption and their genotype at rs1229984, a missense variant in ADH1B, are associated with their partner’s self-reported alcohol use. Applying Mendelian randomization, we estimate that a unit increase in an individual’s weekly alcohol consumption increases partner’s alcohol consumption by 0.26 units (95% C.I. 0.15, 0.38; P = 8.20 × 10−6). Furthermore, we find evidence of spousal genotypic concordance for rs1229984, suggesting that spousal concordance for alcohol consumption existed prior to cohabitation. Although the SNP is strongly associated with ancestry, our results suggest some concordance independent of population stratification. Our findings suggest that alcohol behaviour directly influences mate selection.
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