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While studies from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have described initial negative effects on mental health and exacerbating mental health inequalities, longer-term studies are only now emerging.
In total, 34 465 individuals in the UK completed online questionnaires and were re-contacted over the first 12 months of the pandemic. We used growth mixture modelling to identify trajectories of depression, anxiety and anhedonia symptoms using the 12-month data. We identified sociodemographic predictors of trajectory class membership using multinomial regression models.
Most participants had consistently low symptoms of depression or anxiety over the year of assessments (60%, 69% respectively), and a minority had consistently high symptoms (10%, 15%). We also identified participants who appeared to show improvements in symptoms as the pandemic progressed, and others who showed the opposite pattern, marked symptom worsening, until the second national lockdown. Unexpectedly, most participants showed stable low positive affect, indicating anhedonia, throughout the 12-month period. From regression analyses, younger age, reporting a previous mental health diagnosis, non-binary, or self-defined gender, and an unemployed or a student status were significantly associated with membership of the stable high symptom groups for depression and anxiety.
While most participants showed little change in their depression and anxiety symptoms across the first year of the pandemic, we highlight the divergent responses of subgroups of participants, who fared both better and worse around national lockdowns. We confirm that previously identified predictors of negative outcomes in the first months of the pandemic also predict negative outcomes over a 12-month period.
Retrospective self-reports of childhood trauma are associated with a greater risk of psychopathology in adulthood than prospective measures of trauma. Heritable reporter characteristics are anticipated to account for part of this association, whereby genetic predisposition to certain traits influences both the likelihood of self-reporting trauma and of developing psychopathology. However, previous research has not considered how gene–environment correlation influences these associations.
To investigate reporter characteristics associated with retrospective self-reports of childhood trauma and whether these associations are accounted for by gene–environment correlation.
In 3963 unrelated individuals from the Twins Early Development Study, we tested whether polygenic scores for 21 psychiatric, cognitive, anthropometric and personality traits were associated with retrospectively self-reported childhood emotional and physical abuse. To assess the presence of gene–environment correlation, we investigated whether these associations remained after controlling for composite scores of environmental adversity across development.
Retrospectively self-reported childhood trauma was associated with polygenic scores for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), body mass index (BMI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and risky behaviours. When composite scores of environmental adversity were controlled for, only associations with the polygenic scores for ASD and PTSD remained significant.
Genetic predisposition to ASD and PTSD may increase liability to experiencing or interpreting events as traumatic. Associations between genetic predisposition for risky behaviour and BMI with self-reported childhood trauma may reflect gene–environment correlation. Studies of the association between retrospectively self-reported childhood trauma and later-life outcomes should consider that genetically influenced reporter characteristics may confound associations, both directly and through gene–environment correlation.
Anxiety and depressive disorders can be chronic and disabling. Although there are effective treatments, only a fraction of those impaired receive treatment. Predictors of treatment-seeking and treatment receipt could be informative for initiatives aiming to tackle the burden of untreated anxiety and depression.
To investigate sociodemographic characteristics associated with treatment-seeking and treatment receipt.
Two binary retrospective reports of lifetime treatment-seeking (n = 44 810) and treatment receipt (n = 37 346) were regressed on sociodemographic factors (age, gender, UK ethnic minority background, educational attainment, household income, neighbourhood deprivation and social isolation) and alternative coping strategies (self-medication with alcohol/drugs and self-help) in UK Biobank participants with lifetime generalised anxiety or major depressive disorder. Analyses were also stratified by gender.
Treatment access was more likely in those who reported use of self-help strategies, with university-level education and those from less economically advantaged circumstances (household income <£30 000 and greater neighbourhood deprivation). Treatment access was less likely in those who were male, from a UK ethnic minority background and with high household incomes (>£100 000). Men who self-medicated and/or had a vocational qualification were also less likely to seek treatment.
This work on retrospective reports of treatment-seeking and treatment receipt at any time of life replicates known associations with treatment-seeking and treatment receipt during time of treatment need. More work is required to understand whether improving rates of treatment-seeking improves prognostic outcomes for individuals with anxiety or depression.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide. They often onset early in life, with symptoms and consequences that can persist for decades. This makes anxiety disorders some of the most debilitating and costly disorders of our time. Although much is known about the synaptic and circuit mechanisms of fear and anxiety, research on the underlying genetics has lagged behind that of other psychiatric disorders. However, alongside the formation of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium Anxiety workgroup, progress is rapidly advancing, offering opportunities for future research.
Here we review current knowledge about the genetics of anxiety across the lifespan from genetically informative designs (i.e. twin studies and molecular genetics). We include studies of specific anxiety disorders (e.g. panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder) as well as those using dimensional measures of trait anxiety. We particularly address findings from large-scale genome-wide association studies and show how such discoveries may provide opportunities for translation into improved or new therapeutics for affected individuals. Finally, we describe how discoveries in anxiety genetics open the door to numerous new research possibilities, such as the investigation of specific gene–environment interactions and the disentangling of causal associations with related traits and disorders.
We discuss how the field of anxiety genetics is expected to move forward. In addition to the obvious need for larger sample sizes in genome-wide studies, we highlight the need for studies among young people, focusing on specific underlying dimensional traits or components of anxiety.
A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified 12 independent loci significantly associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Polygenic risk scores (PRS), derived from the GWAS, can be used to assess genetic overlap between ADHD and other traits. Using ADHD samples from several international sites, we derived PRS for ADHD from the recent GWAS to test whether genetic variants that contribute to ADHD also influence two cognitive functions that show strong association with ADHD: attention regulation and response inhibition, captured by reaction time variability (RTV) and commission errors (CE).
The discovery GWAS included 19 099 ADHD cases and 34 194 control participants. The combined target sample included 845 people with ADHD (age: 8–40 years). RTV and CE were available from reaction time and response inhibition tasks. ADHD PRS were calculated from the GWAS using a leave-one-study-out approach. Regression analyses were run to investigate whether ADHD PRS were associated with CE and RTV. Results across sites were combined via random effect meta-analyses.
When combining the studies in meta-analyses, results were significant for RTV (R2 = 0.011, β = 0.088, p = 0.02) but not for CE (R2 = 0.011, β = 0.013, p = 0.732). No significant association was found between ADHD PRS and RTV or CE in any sample individually (p > 0.10).
We detected a significant association between PRS for ADHD and RTV (but not CE) in individuals with ADHD, suggesting that common genetic risk variants for ADHD influence attention regulation.
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