Origins of depression brought into focus in large-scale genetic study

Monday, 4 February, 2019

New insights into the origins of depression have been offered by a large-scale genetic study. The study found hundreds of  genes linked to depression, shedding light on the origins of the condition and highlighting personality types that could be at risk. The international study, involving more than two million people, is the largest of its kind. It could inform treatments for the condition, which affects one in five people in the UK and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Scientists led by Professor Andrew McIntosh at the University of Edinburgh studied information pooled from three large datasets of anonymised health and DNA records and pinpointed 269 genes that were linked to depression.  

The team is inviting people with depression or anxiety in Scotland to take part in a further study, to understand more about the role of DNA in the common mental health conditions. The research – known as The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study – aims to better understand depression and anxiety in order to improve the lives of people with mental health issues. The team, working with colleagues at the National Institute of Health Research Mental Health BioResource and King’s College London, hopes to collect saliva samples and questionnaires from 40,000 people across the UK. If you are interested in taking part please visit the GLAD study website

Professor Andrew McIntosh, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, who led the research, 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 people living with depression and anxiety more effectively in future.” The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, was funded by Wellcome and the Medical Research Council.