The links between depression and genetics

A new Edinburgh University study highlights the link between depression and genetics. (Credit: Sebastian Faugstad)

An international study conducted by the University of Edinburgh has revealed a clear link for the first time between depression and genetics.

Researchers analysed over 2 million people and discovered 269 new genes that can now be associated with depression, which many scientists are claiming will open the door to new treatments in the future. The study was the largest of its kind to date and oversaw the analysis of personal data spread throughout 20 countries.

The study found that genetic variations were impacting nerve connections controlling both decision making and personality in certain parts of the brain. The discovery has shed light on a significantly dark area surrounding the roots of the illness and has highlighted specific personality traits that could be at risk.

With depression now known to be running within families, scientists estimate that over a third of all previous and existing cases could be linked to genetics. As many as one in six people will be affected by this illness in their lifetime.

Edinburgh University (Credit: Wikipedia)

Findings indicate that people who carry such genes will also be at risk of schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and neurotic personality traits. However, research suggests that something as simple as DNA screening would be able to indicate whether a person will be affected by this genetic disorder long before they start experiencing symptoms.

Professor Andrew McIntosh, the lead scientist on the study, is optimistic about the positive impact the findings will have on the future of mental health.

He said: “These findings are further evidence that depression is partly down to our genetics. We hope that by launching the GLAD study, we will be able to find out more about why some people are more at risk than others of mental health conditions, and how we might help living with depression and anxiety more effectively in the future.”

Evidence has also suggested that smoking could be directly related to depression in multiple cases, despite environmental factors remaining the number one cause for the illness.

Over 40,000 people throughout the UK will now be tested in the next phase of research which will require participants to submit their saliva for genetic analysis and fill out a health and lifestyle questionnaire.

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