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Many psychiatric disorders show gender differences in prevalence. Recent studies suggest that female patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression carry more genetic risks related to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared with affected males.
In this register-based study, we aimed to test whether female patients who received clinical diagnoses of anxiety, depressive, bipolar and eating disorders are at higher familial risk for ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, compared with diagnosed male patients.
We analysed data from a record-linkage of several Swedish national registers, including 151 025 sibling pairs from 103 941 unique index individuals diagnosed with anxiety, depressive, bipolar or eating disorders, as well as data from 646 948 cousin pairs. We compared the likelihood of having a relative diagnosed with ADHD/neurodevelopmental disorders in index males and females.
Female patients with anxiety disorders were more likely than affected males to have a brother with ADHD (odd ratio (OR) = 1.13, 95% CI 1.05–1.22). Results for broader neurodevelopmental disorders were similar and were driven by ADHD diagnoses. Follow-up analyses revealed similar point estimates for several categories of anxiety disorders, with the strongest effect observed for agoraphobia (OR = 1.64, 95% CI 1.12–2.39). No significant associations were found in individuals with depressive, bipolar or eating disorders, or in cousins.
These results provide modest support for the possibility that familial/genetic risks for ADHD may show gender-specific phenotypic expression. Alternatively, there could be gender-specific biases in diagnoses of anxiety and ADHD. These factors could play a small role in the observed gender differences in prevalence of ADHD and anxiety.
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two severe eating disorders associated with high premature mortality, suicidal risk and serious medical complications. Transition between anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa over the illness course and familial co-aggregation of the two eating disorders imply aetiological overlap. However, genetic and environmental liabilities to the overlap are poorly understood. Quantitative genetic research using clinical diagnosis is needed.
We acquired a clinical diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (prevalence = 0.90%) and bulimia nervosa (prevalence = 0.48%) in a large population-based sample (N = 782 938) of randomly selected full-sisters and maternal half-sisters born in Sweden between 1970 and 2005. Structural equation modelling was applied to quantify heritability of clinically diagnosed anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and the contributions of genetic and environmental effects on their overlap.
The heritability of clinically diagnosed anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa was estimated at 43% [95% confidence interval (CI) (36–50%)] and 41% (31–52%), respectively, in the study population, with the remaining variance explained by variance in unique environmental effects. We found statistically significant genetic [0.66, 95% CI (0.49–0.82)] and unique environmental correlations [0.55 (0.43–0.66)] between the two clinically diagnosed eating disorders; and their overlap was about equally explained by genetic and unique environmental effects [co-heritability 47% (35–58%)].
Our study supports shared mechanisms for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and extends the literature from self-reported behavioural measures to clinical diagnosis. The findings encourage future molecular genetic research on both eating disorders and emphasize clinical vigilance for symptom fluctuation between them.
Transition across eating disorder diagnoses is common, reflecting instability of specific eating disorder presentations. Previous studies have examined temporal stability of diagnoses in adult treatment-seeking samples but have not uniformly captured initial presentation for treatment. The current study examines transitions across eating disorder diagnostic categories in a large, treatment-seeking sample of individuals born in Sweden and compares these transitions across two birth cohorts and from initial diagnosis.
Data from Swedish eating disorders quality registers were extracted in 2013, including 9622 individuals who were seen at least twice from 1999 to 2013. Patterns of remission were examined in the entire sample and subsequently compared across initial diagnoses. An older (born prior to 1990) and younger birth cohort were also identified, and analyses compared these cohorts on patterns of diagnostic transition.
Although diagnostic instability was common, transition between threshold eating disorder diagnoses was infrequent. For all diagnoses, transition to remission was likely to occur following a diagnosis state that matched initial diagnosis, or through a subthreshold diagnostic state. Individuals in the younger cohort were more likely to transition to a state of remission than those in the older cohort.
Results indicate more temporal continuity in eating disorder presentations than suggested by previous research and highlight the importance of early detection and intervention in achieving remission.
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