Shared genetics and couple-associated environment are major contributors to the risk of both clinical and self-declared depression

Zeng Yanni (Lead / Corresponding author), Pau Navarro, Charley Xia, Carmen Amador, Ana Maria Fernandez-Pujals, Pippa A. Thomson, Archie Campbell, Reka Nagy, Toni-Kim Clarke, Jonathan D. Hafferty, Blair Smith, Lynne J. Hocking, Sandosh Padmanabhan, Caroline Hayward, Donald J. MacIntrye, David J. Porteous, Chris S. Haley, Andrew M. McIntosh

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    Background: both genetic and environmental factors contribute to risk of depression, but estimates of their relative contributions are limited. Commonalities between clinically-assessed major depressive disorder(MDD) and self-declared depression (SDD) are also unclear.

    Methods: using data from a large Scottish family-based cohort(GS:SFHS, N=19,994), we estimated the genetic and environmental variance components for MDD and SDD. The components representing the genetic effect associated with genome-wide common genetic variants(SNP heritability), the additional pedigree-associated genetic effect and non-genetic effects associated with common environments were estimated in a linear mixed model (LMM).

    Findings: Both MDD and SDD had significant contributions from components representing the effect from common genetic variants, the additional genetic effect associated with the pedigree and the common environmental effect shared by couples. The estimate of correlation between SDD and MDD was high (r=1.00, se=0.20) for common-variant-associated genetic effect and lower for the additional genetic effect from the pedigree (r=0.57, se=0.08) and the couple-shared environmental effect (r=0.53, se=0.22).

    Interpretation: Both genetics and couple-shared environmental effects were major factors influencing liability to depression. SDD may provide a scalable alternative to MDD in studies seeking to identify common risk variants. Rarer variants and environmental effects may however differ substantially according to different definitions of depression.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)161-167
    Number of pages7
    Early online date4 Nov 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


    • Major Depressive Disorder
    • Self-declared depression
    • SNP heritability
    • couple effect
    • family environment
    • linear mixed modeling

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