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Genetic and environmental contributions to depression in Sri Lanka

  • Harriet A. Ball (a1), Athula Sumathipala (a2), Sisira H. Siribaddana (a3), Yulia Kovas (a1), Nick Glozier (a4), Peter McGuffin (a1) and Matthew Hotopf (a5)...



Susceptibility to depression results from genetic and non-familially shared environmental influences in high-income, Western countries. Environments may play a different role for populations in different contexts.


To examine heritability of depression in the first large, population-based twin study in a low-income country.


Lifetime depression and a broader measure of depression susceptibility (D-probe) were assessed in 3908 adult twins in Sri Lanka (the CoTASS study).


There were gender differences for the broad definition (D-probe), with a higher genetic contribution in females (61%) than males (4%). Results were similar for depression, but the prevalence was too low to estimate heritability for males.


Genetic influences on depression in women appear to be at least as strong in this Sri Lankan sample as in higher-income countries. Conclusions are less clear for men but suggest a larger role for environments rather than genes. The nature as well as the magnitude of environmental influences may also differ across populations.


Corresponding author

Harriet Ball, MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. Email:


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The Wellcome Trust provided funding for the CoTASS study (grant no. 069629/Z/02/A), and the Institute for Research and Development, Sri Lanka, provided infrastructural support. H.B. was supported by an ESRC research studentship. M.H. is funded by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, National Institute of Health Research, Biomedical Research Centre.

Declaration of interest

P.M. has received honoraria from Eli Lilly and GSK and has acted as a consultant in the recent past for GSK and Astra Zeneca. N.G. has received honoraria from Sanofi-Aventis and Servier.



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Genetic and environmental contributions to depression in Sri Lanka

  • Harriet A. Ball (a1), Athula Sumathipala (a2), Sisira H. Siribaddana (a3), Yulia Kovas (a1), Nick Glozier (a4), Peter McGuffin (a1) and Matthew Hotopf (a5)...
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