There exists a genetic link between depression and anxiety, says new study

A very important finding was recently published in the Nature Human Behaviour journal identified 509 genes that influence both depression and anxiety, which confirms that they indeed have a genetic relation.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia conducted a new research that identified 509 genes that influence both depression and anxiety – confirming a genetic relationship between the mental health conditions.

The study findings have been published overnight in the prestigious journal Nature Human Behaviour, and reproduced on the Connectd website are the first to identify so many genes that are shared between depression and anxiety.

Professor Eske Derks,senior researcher and head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Group, said that depression and anxiety are the two most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the world and often accompanied together in the same person.

Until now, not much was known about the genetic causes of why people suffer from depression and anxiety. Actually, both disorders are highly comorbid conditions, with almost 75% of people with an anxiety disorder also showing symptoms of major depressive disorder.

According to Proff Derks, there are approximately 674 genes associated with either depression or anxiety – and most importantly about three-quarters of them are shared genes. Therefore, the better our understanding of the genetic basis of these psychiatric conditions, the more likely we should be able to treat them.

Jackson Thorp, the lead researcher from QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Group said that after examining the genetic relationship between 28 individual symptoms related to depression and anxiety, he now  understands how they overlapped.

He thinks that such complex disorders are influenced by a large number of genes, with each contributing its individual effect. This was the reason they needed a very large sample size to get a clarity about the genetic influences on these disorders. So, while many genes are shared between anxiety and depression, there are genes that are specific to each disorder.

In fact, some of the genes that are unique to depression were also linked to higher levels of the fat triglyceride in the blood – a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia. The researcher further added that the link between depression-specific genes and hypertriglyceridemia suggests there may be a metabolic component of depression that is not as strong in anxiety.

The results also proved that some of the genes specific to anxiety were related to blood pressure, which is consistent with earlier research that has shown a link between the disorder and hypertension.

The research identified 71 regions that were not known to be associated with anxiety. This is a significant increase from the six regions that had been previously identified for the disorder. It also identified 29 new regions associated with depression.

Researchers seriously hope their study can be easily expanded to find more genomic regions that are yet to be identified as genetic causal risk factors of these two disorders and other psychiatric ailments. Anyone can access these research findings on the Nature Human Behaviour website.

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