Partitioning the etiology of hoarding and obsessive-compulsive symptoms

C. A. Mathews, K. Delucchi, D. C. Cath, G. Willemsen, D. I. Boomsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Until recently, hoarding was considered an obsessive-compulsive symptom (OCS). However, current evidence suggests that these two phenotypes may be clinically, and perhaps etiologically, distinct. Both hoarding and OCS have a genetic etiology, but the degree of unique and shared genetic contributions to these phenotypes has not been well studied. Method: Prevalence rates were assessed for hoarding and OCS in a sample of adult twin pairs (n = 7906 twins) and their family members from the Netherlands Twin Register (total sample = 15 914). Using Mplus, genetic analyses using liability threshold models were conducted for both phenotypes, for their co-morbidity, and for specific hoarding symptoms (cluttering, discarding and acquiring). Results: Of the total sample, 6.7% met criteria for clinically significant hoarding; endorsement of all three hoarding symptoms was ≥79%. Men had slightly higher rates than women. Also, 5.7% met criteria for clinically significant OCS; rates were similar in males and females. Genetic factors accounted for 36% of the variance for hoarding and 40% of the variance for OCS. The genetic correlation between hoarding and OCS was 0.10. There was no evidence of sex-specific genetic contributions for hoarding or OCS. There was evidence for a genetic contribution to all hoarding symptom subtypes. Only cluttering showed evidence of a contribution from the shared environment. Conclusions: OCS and hoarding are common in this population-based sample, have prevalence rates similar to those previously reported, and show significant heritability. Genetic factors contributed to the co-morbidity of both traits, although the genetic correlation between them was low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2867-2876
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2014


  • Genetics
  • heritability
  • hoarding
  • obsessive-compulsive
  • twins


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