Scientists announced on Monday that they had pinpointed 15 locations in our DNA that are associated with depression, one of the most common mental health conditions and one that is estimated to cost the world billions in health-care costs and lost productivity.
Although gene association studies — which link DNA inherited from our parents to particular diseases, conditions or even habits such as vegetarianism — are published practically every week, this is a particularly important one. It’s the first large study on major depressive disorder in people of European descent, and it shows that the genes that may be involved in the condition correspond to those involved in the development of neurons in the brain. There is also overlap between the genetic regions implicated in depression and those that have been linked to other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. This finding supports another key study published in April that focused on genetic factors related to well-being and depression, which found that the genetic variants for those genes had some “moderate” overlap with those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This may suggest that scientists study these genes and traits jointly in future work.
The new study, published in Nature Genetics, involved an analysis of genetic variations of 75,607 people of European ancestry who self-reported having depression and 231,747 healthy controls.