Drinking early has been found to have an effect on the genes related to alcoholism, increasing the likelihood of the subject developing a serious drinking problem later in life. Using twins, a researcher in Australia analyzed the affects of early drinking on heritable genes. When these subjects began drinking at an early age it increased the likelihood of their developing alcoholism by as much as 90% among the youngest drinkers. Those who drank at older ages were not affected in this way. While genetic changes occurred for the younger subjects for the older subjects factors like environment were much more likely to influence them in their drinking habits. The reason for this age difference having different effects isn’t clear but if a younger drinking age is responsible for changing genetic traits related to alcoholism as the study shows then it does become even more important to prevent such habits from developing at a young age.
The twins in the study were between the ages of 24 and 36 at the time of interview but some of the subjects reported drinking ages as young as 5 or 6. Those who were 15 or younger when they began drinking were more likely to develop drinking problems than those who were older. Twins offered the researchers an opportunity to study behavioral differences in two people with the exact same DNA. Differences in things like drinking between the pair are concluded to be caused by environmental factors for this reason.