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Strong Genetic Correlation Between Interview-Assessed Internalizing Disorders and a Brief Self-Report Symptom Scale

  • Line C. Gjerde (a1), Espen Røysamb (a2), Nikolai Czajkowski (a3), Ted Reichborn-Kjennerud (a4), Ragnhild E. Ørstavik (a5), Kenneth S. Kendler (a6) and Kristian Tambs (a7)...

Abstract

Self-report scales for symptoms of anxiety and depression are frequently used for screening and research purposes. A moderate phenotypic association between disorders measured by diagnostic interviews and symptoms of anxiety and depression measured by self-report scales has been shown, but little is known about the overlap in these phenotypes' genetic and environmental variance. In the present study, we used twin modeling to identify common genetic and environmental liabilities underlying the phenotypic association between the self-report Symptom Checklist-5 (SCL-5) and lifetime internalizing disorders derived from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). The sample consisted of 7,992 young adult twins from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Twin Panel (NIPHT), who all responded to a questionnaire. A subset of 2,793 individuals later underwent structured interviews. The best fitting model showed a strong genetic correlation of 0.82 (95% confidence interval; 0.61–1.0) between current self-report symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lifetime internalizing disorders, which suggests an almost complete overlap in genetic liability. The correlation between environmental factors was much lower: 0.16 (0.00–0.34, 95% CI). This implies that brief self-report scales capture genetic variance that is highly overlapping with the genetic variance common to internalizing disorder diagnoses. It thus follows that SCL-5 and similar instruments may be used as screening instruments for genetic risk factors that influence liability to internalizing disorders. In addition, existing data on self-report symptoms of anxiety and depression can be used with increased confidence to specify models including effects from genes coding for internalizing disorders.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Line C. Gjerde, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Box 4404 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway.

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