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Genetic risk of major depressive disorder: the moderating and mediating effects of neuroticism and psychological resilience on clinical and self-reported depression

  • L. B. Navrady (a1), M. J. Adams (a1), S. W. Y. Chan (a2), Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, S. J. Ritchie (a3) (a4) and A. M. McIntosh (a1) (a4) (a5)...



Polygenic risk scores (PRS) for depression correlate with depression status and chronicity, and provide causal anchors to identify depressive mechanisms. Neuroticism is phenotypically and genetically positively associated with depression, whereas psychological resilience demonstrates negative phenotypic associations. Whether increased neuroticism and reduced resilience are downstream mediators of genetic risk for depression, and whether they contribute independently to risk remains unknown.


Moderating and mediating relationships between depression PRS, neuroticism, resilience and both clinical and self-reported depression were examined in a large, population-based cohort, Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study (N = 4166), using linear regression and structural equation modelling. Neuroticism and resilience were measured by the Eysenck Personality Scale Short Form Revised and the Brief Resilience Scale, respectively.


PRS for depression was associated with increased likelihood of self-reported and clinical depression. No interaction was found between PRS and neuroticism, or between PRS and resilience. Neuroticism was associated with increased likelihood of self-reported and clinical depression, whereas resilience was associated with reduced risk. Structural equation modelling suggested the association between PRS and self-reported and clinical depression was mediated by neuroticism (43–57%), while resilience mediated the association in the opposite direction (37–40%). For both self-reported and clinical diagnoses, the genetic risk for depression was independently mediated by neuroticism and resilience.


Findings suggest polygenic risk for depression increases vulnerability for self-reported and clinical depression through independent effects on increased neuroticism and reduced psychological resilience. In addition, two partially independent mechanisms – neuroticism and resilience – may form part of the pathway of vulnerability to depression.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Address for correspondence: L. Navrady, E-mail:


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