Queensland researchers reveal why depression may be in your genes

Queensland researchers conducting the world’s largest study of depression have discovered the biggest risk to experiencing depression may be in your genes.


Jan 27, 2022, updated Jan 27, 2022
Two out of three regional Australians have had some feelings of depression during the pandemic. (file image).

posed by models

Two out of three regional Australians have had some feelings of depression during the pandemic. (file image). posed by models

The study uncovered 23 genes linked to a person’s risk of developing depression.

QIMR Berghofer lead researcher Brittany Mitchell said data was collected from more than 20,000 people to identify risk factors for depression.

“We examined the DNA of people with and without depression and found that these genetic markers are far more common in those with depression. In fact, people with the highest number of these genetic markers were 6.5 times more likely to have major depression,” Mitchell said.

She said unique genetic profiles were also found to be linked to particular depression subtypes, such as developing seasonal affective disorder or postpartum depression.

“These unique genetic risk profiles appear to make people more susceptible to particular types of depression, or certain features such as symptoms, age of onset and recurrence,” Mitchell said.

“It makes our study the first of this size to not only show such a significant link between genetics and overall depression risk, but also the existence of actual biological differences impacting these various characteristics or subtypes of depression.”

Senior researcher Dr Enda Byrne from the University of Queensland said the study showed there was no one-size-fits-all answer for depression, but the genetic clues gave hope for better treatments.

“This can potentially translate to a substantial advancement in how we treat depression,” Byrne said.

“When you have insight into the genetic basis of a condition you can develop much more effective treatments. For people with depression, it is so important to have earlier and more effective treatments available.

“This research could one day allow for future gene-mapping technology to deliver a more personalised and targeted treatment plan and potentially assist in developing new drug treatments or a re-purposing of current drugs for better outcomes.”

Around one in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, with women more likely to experience depression than men, latest figures show. Nationally around $10.6 billion is spent on mental health.

In Queensland, around one in four people aged 16-24 experience and live with depression each year.

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