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Is Depression And Anxiety Genetic

Study Finds Genetic Link Between Childhood And Adult Anxiety And Depression

Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study

Hereditary factors are partly responsible for childhood anxiety and depression that persists into adulthood, according to University of Queensland researchers.

In the largest study of its kind in the world, the genetics of 64,641 children, aged between 3 and 18 years, were analysed using longitudinal data from the Early Genetics and Lifeforce Epidemiology consortium.

Professor Christel Middeldorp, who holds a co-joint appointment with the UQ Child Health Research Centre and Childrens Health Queensland, said the study showed children who had similar levels of anxiety and depression were also alike genetically.

It also revealed a genetic overlap between childhood and adult mental health disorders when comparing the results in this childhood study with results of previous studies in adults.

These findings are important because they help identify people most at risk of symptoms continuing across the lifespan, so intense treatment can be provided where needed, Professor Middeldorp said.

Its the first time researchers have conducted such a large scale study examining the role of genetics in repeated measures of anxiety and depression in children.

Professor Middeldorp said genetic variants needed to be investigated because they increased the risk of recurrence and co-occurrence with other disorders.

Mental health symptoms often come together, so those who experience anxiety or depression have a greater risk of disorders such as ADHD, aggressive behaviour, she said.

Roots Of Major Depression Revealed In All Their Genetic Complexity

A massive genome-wide association study of genetic and health records of 1.2 million people from four separate data banks has identified 178 gene variants linked to major depression, a disorder that will affect as many as one in every five people during their lifetimes.

The results of the study, led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs researchers at Yale University School of Medicine and University of California-San Diego , may one day help identify people most at risk of depression and related psychiatric disorders and help doctors prescribe drugs best suited to treat the disorder.

The study was published May 27 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

For the study, the research team analyzed medical records and genomes collected from more than 300,000 participants in the V.A.s Million Veteran Program , one of the largest and most diverse databanks of genetic and medical information in the world.

These new data were combined in a meta-analysis with genetic and health records from the UK Biobank, FinnGen , and results from the consumer genetics company 23andMe. This part of the study included 1.2 million participants. The researchers crosschecked their findings from that analysis with an entirely separate sample of 1.3 million volunteers from 23andMe customers.

When the two sets of data from the different sources were compared, genetic variants linked to depression replicated with statistical significance for most of the markers tested.

Daniel Levey


A Brain Mechanism Underlying The Evolution Of Anxiety

  • 2022-08-04

Monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine play important roles in our cognitive and emotional functions. Their evolutionary origins date back to metazoans, and while the function of related genes is strongly evolutionarily conserved, genetic variation within and between species has been reported to have a significant impact on animal mental characteristics such as sociality, aggression, anxiety, and depression.

A research group led by Dr Daiki Sato and Professor Masakado Kawata has previously reported that the vesicular monoamine transporter 1 gene, which transports neurotransmitters to secretory vesicles in neurons and secretory cells, has evolved through natural selection during human evolution. In particular, the 136th amino acid locus of this gene has evolved in the human lineage from asparagine to threonine , and moreover, a new allele has emerged and increased in its frequencies around the world. Previous reports suggested that people with the Ile genotype are less prone to depression and anxiety than those with the Thr genotype, but it was unclear how these human-specific mutations function in the brain and lead to changes in neuropsychiatric behavior.

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Progress In Psychiatric Genetics

In the 1980s and 1990s, linkage studies implicated a large number of chromosomal regions that might harbor risk loci for a range of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders. However, linkage findings were difficult to replicate, and by the late 1990s, it became clear that association studies would be more powerful than linkage studies for discovering common, low penetrance risk alleles. During the next decade, hundreds of candidate gene association studies were reported, but replication of findings from these studies proved elusive.

A turning point for psychiatric genetics occurred with the advent of large GWAS. Whereas few if any loci could be confidently said to be associated with a psychiatric disorder before 2008, GWAS has, at this writing, yielded nearly 200. In 2007, the international Psychiatric Genomics Consortium was formed as investigators came together to share GWAS data sets and pursue centralized analyses . To date, large GWAS by the PGC and other groups have identified numerous genome-wide significant loci, including more than 100 for schizophrenia alone .

However, progress in genetic studies of the stress-related disorders reviewed here has been slower. The following sections will review genetic findings for the three categories of stress-related disorders: traumatic-stress disorders , MDD, and anxiety disorders . For each, I will first review their genetic epidemiology , studies of common SNVs, rare SNVs, and structural variation, and finally G × E studies.

Mental Health Conditions: Depression And Anxiety

Causes And Risk Factors Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. When a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal, everyday functioning, you may be depressed. Symptoms of depression include:1

  • Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
  • Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
  • Feeling irritable easily frustrated or restless
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Waking up too early or sleeping too much
  • Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
  • Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • Feeling tired even after sleeping well
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself

The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of major depression and cannot take the place of seeing a mental health professional. If you think you are depressed talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. This is especially important if your symptoms are getting worse or affecting your daily activities.

The exact cause of depression is unknown. It may be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.2 Everyone is different but the following factors may increase a persons chances of becoming depressed:1

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Genetic Factors And Depression

Depression can run in families. But having a parent or a sibling with depression doesnt necessarily mean youll have it, too.

If depression runs in your family, you have about a 30% chance of developing it, compared to the typical 10% chance in the general population.

However, recurrent depression may carry a higher genetic risk.

For example, if your parent or sibling has experienced a depressive episode more than once, especially starting earlier in life , your risk may be 4 or 5 times greater than the average persons.

Many people experience more than one depressive episode. Nearly 3 in 4 people with depression will experience a relapse at some point in their lives.

Some disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, are caused by a single gene. But similar to other common genetic conditions like diabetes, depression is not caused by one gene.

Instead, depression is influenced by a complex interplay of genes, biological factors, and environmental causes.

So while depression does run in families, you dont simply inherit this mental health condition from your mom or dad. Your parents contribute certain combinations of genes that can make you more likely to develop the illness.

Other factors such as trauma, substance use, and family environment can also affect your odds.

Mental Illness And The Brain

Many scientists believe mental illness is derived from troubles with the interaction between neurons in the brain. For example, the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is less in people who experience depression. This finding resulted in the development of certain drugs for the illness. In recent years, studies have shown that dispensing psychedelic drugs like ketamine, either as an FDA-approved nasal spray or infusion therapy, can alter brain chemistry and manage symptoms of mental illness.

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New Evidence Of Genetic Link Between Depression And Anxiety


Depression and anxiety are highly comorbid conditions, with about three-quarters of people with an anxiety disorder also exhibiting symptoms of major depressive disorder, but little has been known until now about the genetic causes of the disorders. New research led QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has identified 509 genes that influence both depression and anxiety, confirming the genetic relationship between the mental health conditions.

Journal/conference: Nature Human Behaviour

Link to research :10.1038/s41562-021-01094-9

Organisation/s: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute


Genetic Variants Linked To Anxiety:

Using genetic testing to treat depression and anxiety | A/Prof Kathy Wu

Log in to see your data below Not a member? Join now to see your genetic data below. ~ Clear Your Data ~

This section gets specific on genetic variants of the pathways discussed above. The variants included below are found in 23andMe or AncestryDNA data and also have multiple studies to back up the assertions.

Members Quick Overview:

Heightened reactivity to high CO2 levels, incr. risk panic disorders

Adenosine-related variant:

ADORA2A gene: adenosine receptor 2A

Check your genetic data for rs5751876 :

  • T/T: increased risk of panic disorder increased anxiety with caffeine consumption and with amphetamines
  • C/T: most common genotype

Members: Your genotype for rs5751876 is

Oxytocin-related variants:

OXTR gene: codes for the oxytocin receptor

Check your genetic data for rs53576 :

  • G/G: more empathetic increased separation anxiety risk when coupled with GNB3 rs5443 T allele , less stress if receiving social support higher adult separation anxiety in depressed patients. altered cortisol levels and altered blood pressure with social rejection
  • A/G: less empathetic, less sensitive to social rejection
  • A/A: less empathetic, less sensitive to social rejection

Members: Your genotype for rs53576 is .

GNB3 gene: G-protein is involved in signaling, variants are linked to high blood pressure, night blindness, and mood disorders

Check your genetic data for rs5443 :

Members: Your genotype for rs5443 is .

Serotonin-related variants:

Members: Your genotype for rs140701 is .

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Family And Twin Studies

Because the expression of PTSD requires exposure to a significant trauma, estimating the familial aggregation of PTSD is complicated by the need to account for varying degrees of trauma exposure among relatives. Thus, in a standard casecontrol design, it is impossible to determine whether relatives who have not experienced significant trauma might have otherwise been affected. Risk of PTSD has been shown to be elevated among offspring of parents with PTSD in some but not in all studies . The largest study comprised a cohort of 6924 mothers and their children and found a significant increase in offspring PTSD in a doseresponse relationship with maternal posttraumatic stress symptoms . Interestingly, parentoffspring transmission was largely mediated through an increase in trauma exposure among offspring of mothers with PTSD. PTSD-related twin studies have addressed the complex genetic relationship between trauma exposure and disorder risk by distinguishing their heritable components. Genetic factors can contribute to PTSD liability in at least four ways: by influencing the liability to trauma exposure by influencing PTSD risk independent of trauma exposure by influencing other risk factors for PTSD or by a pleiotropic effect on two or more of these.

Largest Genome Study To Date Of Anxiety Reveals New Risk Variants And Suggests Possible Biological Mechanisms

Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry

Yale School of Medicine

2019 Young Investigator Grant

Story highlights

The largest-to-date study relating DNA variations and anxiety disorders has revealed several previously unidentified locations in the human genome where variations in the sequence tend to occur in people with anxiety. These suggest possible biological mechanisms involved in the disorder.

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The largest-to-date study relating DNA variations and #anxiety disorders has revealed several previously unidentified DNA risk variants, offering insights into biological processes that underpin anxiety. Tweet this

The largest-to-date study relating DNA variations and anxiety disorders has revealed several previously unidentified locations in the human genome where variations in the sequence tend to occur in people with anxiety, compared with people who don’t have anxiety.

The findings provide new insights into genetic risk mechanisms and biological processes that underpin anxiety. The study, a genome-wide association study or GWAS, also replicates past findings suggesting genetic linkages between anxiety and major depressive disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and neuroticism.

The researchers found novel genetic variants in and around the locations of several genes, some of which have previously been linked to anxiety based on the functions they are thought to perform.

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Read Also: What Does Anxiety Medicine Do

Anxiety: Genetic Connections And Personalized Solutions

Have you noticed that anxiety tends to run in families? Some people just seem to be wired to worry. From generalized anxiety to panic disorders there are underlying genetic and physiological factors involved.

This article covers genetic variants related to anxiety disorders. Its a huge topic, with new research is coming out all the time.

The information presented here is for educational/informational purposes. This meanslearn all that you can about the genetic reasons for anxiety disorders and then talk with your doctor before making any medical decisions.


  • Related Genes and Topics:
  • Twin And Family Studies Suggest A Genetic Link To Depression

    Major depression: Brain tissue reveals sex

    Thanks to family and twin studies, researchers know that genes play a significant role in developing depression.

    In these studies, researchers compare identical twins to help shed light on how much of the risk is genetic.

    Therefore, if genes are part of the cause, the researchers would expect an identical twin to have a much higher risk of depression than a non-identical twin .

    Through studies like these, researchers have determined that heritability is probably around 40% to 50%, and may be even higher for severe depression.

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    Demystifying The Depression Gene

    Having a genetic variant can make it more likelybut not definitivethat you will develop a condition associated with that variant.

    If a gene associated with a specific condition is altered, it may be more likely to contribute to the development of that condition. A benign genetic variant is less likely to influence the condition than a pathogenic variant.

    In some cases, researchers identify a genetic variant but dont know what effect it has. These variants are referred to as having “unknown significance.”

    Several large genome-wide studies have proposed potential genetic connections to major depressive disorder. In 2017, researchers identified two new genetic variants associated with depression.

    A 2018 study published in the journal Nature Genetics identified several genetic variants that appeared to be associated with symptoms of depression and, in some cases, physical differences in the brain.

    While the research has provided valuable insight into the potential heritability of mental illness, no studies have definitively identified a single gene as the cause of depression.

    Scientists believe it’s more likely that all the different genes and genetic variants each make a small contribution to a person’s overall risk. Research has indicated that genes may be passed down in different ways , which is another factor that could affect someone’s genetic predisposition to depression.

    Genome Studies On Family History Of Depression

    Recent advancements in science and technology have allowed researchers to conduct large-scale genome studies to explore how our genes are related to depression.

    A genome-wide association study is a type of study that involves scanning complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of large numbers of people in order to detect any genetic patterns linked to a particular disease.

    Once these genetic links are found, scientists use the data to develop better ways to detect, prevent, and treat disease.

    Until recently, gene studies on depression have focused primarily on candidate genes, or genes believed to be involved in the development of depression.

    Some of the most commonly studied candidate genes have included those regulating serotonin or dopamine, since these neurotransmitters are believed to play a role in depression and are the targets of antidepressant drugs.

    However, its been hard to repeat these findings. The newer GWAS takes a completely different approach. Rather than looking at specific candidate genes, the GWAS method allows researchers to analyze a million or more variants across the entire genome.

    In a major GWAS of 1.2 million people from four separate data banks, researchers identified 178 gene variants linked to major depression. The researchers think they may just be scratching the surface, as there may be hundreds or even thousands of these gene variants to discover.

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    How To Know If Youre Depressed

    Major Depressive Disorder, or clinical depression, is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.6 It affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While everyone feels down from time to time, clinical depression is persistent and often severe enough to interfere with relationships, work, and day-to-day life.

    Symptoms of Depression Include:

    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Feelings of sadness, numbness, or hopelessness
    • Outbursts of anger, even over small matters
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Unexplained physical ailments like frequent headaches or stomach aches

    Steering Your Mood With Food

    Genes and Treatment for Depression and Anxiety (8 of 8)

    Posted November 20, 2014

    While its natural for everyone to feel sad or nervous from time to time, individuals should seek help if they are experiencing profound sadness and intense nervousness for a long period of time. There is no exact science that prescribes either when someone should get over the loss of a family pet or when a person should stop fretting over an impending public speaking gig. In either case, individuals should not allow depression and anxiety to paralyze them.

    Often times, what starts off as a few days of feeling sad or anxious can balloon into weeks, months, or even years of depression or anxiety. Without developing the appropriate coping mechanisms that allow you to acknowledge, accept, and manage problems, you are likely to develop anxiety and depressive disorders. Although some people with anxiety and depression can function in the beginning, the symptoms of these disorders will eventually affect their careers, health, and social lives.1,2

    Factors that contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression are only the tip of the iceberg. So whats really going on beneath that humdrum disposition?

    Why So Glum?

    Serotonin has analgesic effects and controls sleep, appetite, and mood. Research shows that 5-HT plays a role in the control of mood, depression, and even suicide.

    Gene Changes That Modify Your Mood

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