2 Dec 2008

Study commissioned into alcoholism in American Samoa

2:03 pm on 2 December 2008

A preliminary study about the genetics of alcoholism in American Samoa has been commissioned by the U.S. National Institute of Health.

The study will be carried out by addiction psychiatrist Dr. Robert Swift from Brown University in Providence Rhode Island, and the Director of Brown International Health Institute Dr. Stephen McGarvey.

Dr. Swift says Samoan levels of alcoholism are no different to the rest of the world but they have chosen Samoans to study because they are very genetically similar.

He says it's easier to find the genetic basis of different conditions in a group of people with similar genes.

"Because the Samoan islands have been isolated for so many thousands of years there is very little mixture genetically with other people. So that their genetic background in a sense is very similar. It's more likely that a difference in a gene from one Samoan to another may be reflected in a specific behaviour rather than just being random variation."

Dr Robert Swift says about ten percent of the American Samoa population drinks heavily, and they want to understand what is associated with that level of drinking.