Is depression in our genes?
What our family trees may reveal
Can we inherit conditions like depression from our parents or a distant ancestor? Experts believe in some part, yes. While no one knows for certain exactly what causes depression, the condition is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, meaning that along with our environment, our genes may very well make us more prone to getting depressed. Of course, this link to our genetic makeup is not limited to depression. Genetics are often linked to other conditions, too.
In fact, nearly all human diseases are believed to be caused by a combination of our personal genetic makeup and the environment we live in. And exactly what potential environmental factors are we talking about? Everything from how well we eat, to how often we’re exposed to infections—even how challenging our childhoods were.
Searching for “Depression Genes”
This has sparked researchers to look for genes that might make a person prone to depression. While there have been a number of studies that appear to pinpoint particular “depression genes,” the results have not been consistent. But some research already suggests that there may be specific genes that indicate a higher susceptibility to developing depression.
What twin studies tell us about depression
Much has been learned about the role genes play in depression through studies with identical and fraternal twins. The findings confirm that depression is a result of both genetic and environmental influences.
Why are twin studies so helpful? Because identical twins share the exact same genetic makeup as one another, and fraternal twins,share at least 50% of their genes. This helps researchers come closer to determining how often depression is caused by influences shared by twins who were raised together, and influences specific to each individual twin.
One study suggests that genetics are responsible for about 39% of a person's depression, while environmental influences are responsible for the other 61%.
What does this all mean? By identifying the genes associated with this widespread condition, researchers are hopeful that they may be able to treat it more effectively. All of which is very encouraging.
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