Study finds genetic link between depression and anxiety

The study highlights the link between depression linked to mental health problems and anxiety. He identified 509 genes that influence both depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety can affect a person’s daily functioning

New research from Australia, led by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has identified 509 genes that influence both depression and anxiety, confirming a genetic relationship between mental health issues.

The study results were published overnight in the prestigious journal Nature Human Behavior and are the first to identify so many shared genes between depression and anxiety.

Principal Investigator and Head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Group, Professor Eske Derks, said depression and anxiety are the two most common psychiatric disorders in the world and often coexist in the same person.

“Not much is known, so far, about the genetic causes of why people may suffer from depression and anxiety. The two disorders are highly comorbid conditions, with about three-quarters of people suffering from ‘an anxiety disorder that also has symptoms of major depressive disorder,’ Professor Derks said.

“We identified 674 genes associated with depression or anxiety – and crucially, around three-quarters of these genes were shared,” Prof Derks said.

“The more we understand the genetic basis of these psychiatric disorders, the more likely we are to be able to treat them,” he added.

Principal investigator of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Group, Jackson Thorp, said he looked at the genetic relationship between 28 individual symptoms related to depression and anxiety to understand how they overlap.

“These types of complex disorders are influenced by a large number of genes, each having a small individual effect, which is why we needed a very large sample to get a clear picture of genetic influences on these disorders,” said Thorp.

“While many genes are shared between anxiety and depression, we also found genes specific to each disorder,” he added.

Thorp said some of the genes unique to depression are linked to higher levels of fatty triglycerides in the blood – a condition called hypertriglyceridemia.

“The link between these depression-specific genes and hypertriglyceridemia suggests that there might be a metabolic component to depression that isn’t as strong in anxiety,” Thorp said.

“Conversely, our results showed that some of the anxiety-specific genes were linked to blood pressure, which is consistent with previous research that has shown a link between the disorder and hypertension.”

In an extension of the study, the researchers then explored which regions of the human genome the genes were in to identify regions that had not previously been linked to the disorders.

“Our search identified 71 regions that were not previously associated with anxiety, which represents a significant increase from the six regions that had been identified for the disorder previously,” Thorp said.

“We also identified 29 novel regions associated with depression.”

Professor Derks said the researchers hoped to extend their study to find even more genomic regions that have not yet been identified as genetic causative risk factors for these two disorders and other psychiatric illnesses.

The research results can be viewed on the Nature Human Behavior website.

The study was primarily funded by QIMR Berghofer and the University of Queensland M. Thorp Fellowship.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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