Genetic Epidemiology of Substance Use and Mental Disorders
Substance use disorders and other common mental disorders are among the greatest causes of disability and associate with reduced life expectancy. Genetic factors significantly contribute to the risk of substance use and mental disorders. However, knowledge on the effects of genetic risk across developmental and environmental contexts is still limited. Further, many traditional risk factors established by epidemiological studies are themselves strongly influenced by genetic factors. Thus, to properly understand the developmental mechanisms of substance use and mental disorders it is necessary to use longitudinal, genetically informed research designs.
We conduct epidemiological research on substance use disorders and other mental disorders using multiple research designs capable of differentiating between genetic and non-genetic factors contributing to individual differences in risk. More specifically, we conduct twin, sibling and cousin analyses, within-individual analyses, and analyses with measured genetic variation. We utilize longitudinal data from Finnish twin cohort studies and multigenerational family and twin data from Swedish nationwide registers. To complement these epidemiological designs, we also utilize an experimental animal model of heavy alcohol use (in collaboration with Dr. Petri Hyytiä).