Do genes influence exposure to trauma? A twin study of combat

M. J. Lyons, J. Goldberg, S. A. Eisen, W. True, M. T. Tsuang, J. M. Meyer, W. G. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Data from 4,029 male-male twin pairs who served in the United States military during the Vietnam era (1965-1975) were used to examine genetic and non-genetic factors that influence wartime exposure to traumatic events. Specific events examined were volunteering for service in Vietnam, actual service in Southeast Asia, a composite index of 18 combat experiences, and information from military records about being awarded combat decorations. Correlations within monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs for volunteering for service in Vietnam were 0.40 and 0.22, respectively. For actually serving in Southeast Asia, the MZ correlation was 0.41 and the DZ correlation was 0.24. Analysis of twin pairs in which both siblings served in Southeast Asia (n = 820) demonstrated a correlation for self-reported combat experiences within MZ and DZ pairs of 0.53 and 0.30, respectively. Heritability estimates ranged from 35 to 47%. The family environment did not have a significant effect on any of the variables. Analyses of data from military records regarding being awarded a combat decoration provided very similar results to those found for self-reported combat experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of medical genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993


  • biometrical modeling
  • genetics
  • life events
  • twins


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