Adult depression stems from childhood, genetic study finds

Childhood anxiety and depression persisting into adulthood are partially determined by our genes, research has found.

Scientists at the University of Queensland examined the genetics of more than 64,000 children aged 3 to 18 and compared them to known genetic profiles for anxiety and depression in adults.

Research has found that a person’s genetics help determine not only whether they develop anxiety or depression during childhood, but also whether they continue to suffer from these conditions into adulthood.Credit:Getty Images

Lead researcher Christel Middeldorp said the finding showed a genetic component to whether someone suffered from anxiety or depression during childhood, which continued into adulthood.

“We found a strong correlation between genes that influence anxiety in childhood and adolescence, and the same symptoms in adulthood,” Prof Middeldorp said.

“What we’re seeing is that some children who have anxiety, actually about 50%, continue to have problems into adulthood, and what that suggests is that it’s at the least in part because of their innate vulnerability to these symptoms.”

Professor Middeldorp pointed out that having a certain genetic mark did not guarantee that a person would develop a mental illness, but it did make them more vulnerable if they also encountered environmental stress.

“We don’t think it’s just genetics, we need to include environmental factors that play a role in outcomes, but this study indicates that genetics assessment will be helpful.”

“When you have that genetic risk and something environmental comes into play, you’re more likely to have symptoms. [of these disorders].”

The research also found that children with similar levels of anxiety or depression had similar genetic profiles, further bolstering the conclusion that their underlying genetics were partly to blame.

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