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The association between weight and depressive symptoms is well established, but the direction of effects remains unclear. Most studies rely on body mass index (BMI) as the sole weight indicator, with few examining the aetiology of the association between weight indicators and depressive symptoms.
We analysed data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) and UK Adult Twin Registry (TwinsUK) (7658 and 2775 twin pairs, respectively). A phenotypic cross-lagged panel model assessed the directionality between BMI and depressive symptoms at ages 12, 16, and 21 years in TEDS. Bivariate correlations tested the phenotypic association between a range of weight indicators and depressive symptoms in TwinsUK. In both samples, structural equation modelling of twin data investigated genetic and environmental influences between weight indicators and depression. Sensitivity analyses included two-wave phenotypic cross-lagged panel models and the exclusion of those with a BMI <18.5.
Within TEDS, the relationship between BMI and depression was bidirectional between ages 12 and 16 with a stronger influence of earlier BMI on later depression. The associations were unidirectional thereafter with depression at 16 influencing BMI at 21. Small genetic correlations were found between BMI and depression at ages 16 and 21, but not at 12. Within TwinsUK, depression was weakly correlated with weight indicators; therefore, it was not possible to generate precise estimates of genetic or environmental correlations.
The directionality of the relationship between BMI and depression appears to be developmentally sensitive. Further research with larger genetically informative samples is needed to estimate the aetiological influence on these associations.
A joint, hierarchical structure of psychopathology and personality has been reported in adults but should also be investigated at earlier ages, as psychopathology often develops before adulthood. Here, we investigate the joint factor structure of psychopathology and personality in eight-year-old children, estimate factor heritability and explore external validity through associations with established developmental risk factors.
Phenotypic and biometric exploratory factor analyses with bifactor rotation on genetically informative data from the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort (MoBa) study. The analytic sub-sample comprised 10 739 children (49% girls). Mothers reported their children's symptoms of depression (Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire), anxiety (Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder inattention and hyperactivity, oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder (Parent/Teacher Rating Scale for Disruptive Behavior Disorders), and Big Five personality (short Hierarchical Personality Inventory for Children). Developmental risk factors (early gestational age and being small for gestational age) were collected from the Medical Birth Registry.
Goodness-of-fit indices favored a p factor model with three residual latent factors interpreted as negative affectivity, positive affectivity, and antagonism, whereas psychometric indices favored a one-factor model. ADE solutions fitted best, and regression analyses indicated a negative association between gestational age and the p factor, for both the one- and four-factor solutions.
Correlations between normative and pathological traits in middle childhood mostly reflect one heritable and psychometrically interpretable p factor, although optimal fit to data required less interpretable residual latent factors. The association between the p factor and low gestational age warrants further study of early developmental mechanisms.
There is substantial variation in patient symptoms following psychological therapy for depression and anxiety. However, reliance on endpoint outcomes ignores additional interindividual variation during therapy. Knowing a patient's likely symptom trajectories could guide clinical decisions. We aimed to identify latent classes of patients with similar symptom trajectories over the course of psychological therapy and explore associations between baseline variables and trajectory class.
Patients received high-intensity psychological treatment for common mental health problems at National Health Service Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services in South London (N = 16 258). To identify trajectories, we performed growth mixture modelling of depression and anxiety symptoms over 11 sessions. We then ran multinomial regressions to identify baseline variables associated with trajectory class membership.
Trajectories of depression and anxiety symptoms were highly similar and best modelled by four classes. Three classes started with moderate-severe symptoms and showed (1) no change, (2) gradual improvement, and (3) fast improvement. A final class (4) showed initially mild symptoms and minimal improvement. Within the moderate-severe baseline symptom classes, patients in the two showing improvement as opposed to no change tended not to be prescribed psychotropic medication or report a disability and were in employment. Patients showing fast improvement additionally reported lower baseline functional impairment on average.
Multiple trajectory classes of depression and anxiety symptoms were associated with baseline characteristics. Identifying the most likely trajectory for a patient at the start of treatment could inform decisions about the suitability and continuation of therapy, ultimately improving patient outcomes.
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.
Previous research indicates that body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is associated with risk of suicidality. However, studies have relied on small and/or specialist samples and largely focussed on adults, despite these difficulties commonly emerging in youth. Furthermore, the aetiology of the relationship remains unknown.
Two independent twin samples were identified through the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden, at ages 18 (N = 6027) and 24 (N = 3454). Participants completed a self-report measure of BDD symptom severity. Young people and parents completed items assessing suicidal ideation/behaviours. Logistic regression models tested the association of suicidality outcomes with: (a) probable BDD, classified using an empirically derived cut-off; and (b) continuous scores of BDD symptoms. Bivariate genetic models examined the aetiology of the association between BDD symptoms and suicidality at both ages.
Suicidal ideation and behaviours were common among those with probable BDD at both ages. BDD symptoms, measured continuously, were linked with all aspects of suicidality, and associations generally remained significant after adjusting for depressive and anxiety symptoms. Genetic factors accounted for most of the covariance between BDD symptoms and suicidality (72.9 and 77.7% at ages 18 and 24, respectively), but with significant non-shared environmental influences (27.1 and 22.3% at ages 18 and 24, respectively).
BDD symptoms are associated with a substantial risk of suicidal ideation and behaviours in late adolescence and early adulthood. This relationship is largely explained by common genetic liability, but non-shared environmental effects are also significant and could provide opportunities for prevention among those at high-risk.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders and it is related to multiple negative health consequences. Previous studies have shown that sleep apnea is influenced by genetic factors. However, studies have not investigated the genetic and environmental influences of symptoms of sleep apnea in young adults. Furthermore, the underpinnings of the relationship between apnea symptoms and internalizing/externalizing problems are unknown. The objectives of this study were to estimate the magnitude of: (1) genetic and environmental influences on self-reported apnea symptoms; (2) the relationship between self-reported apnea symptoms and internalizing/externalizing traits; (3) genetic and environmental influences on the associations between self-reported apnea symptoms, internalizing behaviors and externalizing behaviors.
In a twin/sibling study, univariate and multivariate models were fitted to estimate both individual variance and sources of covariance between symptoms of sleep apnea and internalizing/externalizing behaviors.
Our results show that genetic influences account for 40% of the variance in sleep apnea symptoms. Moreover, there are modest associations between depression, anxiety and externalizing behaviors with apnea symptoms (ranging from r = 0.22–0.29). However, the origins of these associations differ. For example, whereas most of the covariation between symptoms of depression and sleep apnea can be explained by genes (95%), there was a larger role for the environment (53%) in the association between symptoms of anxiety and sleep apnea.
Genetic factors explain a significant proportion of variance in symptoms of apnea and most of the covariance with depression.
Although maternal depressive symptoms are robustly associated with offspring early-life psychopathology symptoms, it is not clear which potential mechanisms are at play. We aimed to estimate the relative importance of genetic transmission and direct environmental exposure in these associations on three occasions in early childhood.
Biometric modeling of maternal sisters and their offspring from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The analyzed sample comprised 22 316 mothers and 35 589 offspring. Mothers reported their own depressive symptoms using the Symptom checklist, and offspring's concurrent symptoms of psychopathology using the Child Behavior Checklist at 1.5, 3, and 5 years postpartum.
Associations between maternal symptoms of depression and offspring emotional problems were predominantly explained by passive genetic transmission at 1.5 and 3 years postpartum. At age 5, associations were more due to direct environmental exposure. For offspring behavioral problems, there was no net increase in the importance of direct environmental exposure across occasions.
Associations between maternal depressive symptoms and offspring psychopathology symptoms remained after accounting for shared genes, consistent with a small, causal effect. For offspring emotional problems, this effect appeared to increase in importance over time. Our findings imply that treatment of maternal depressive symptoms could also benefit the offspring, and that genetic confounding should be considered in future studies of such mother–offspring associations.
The Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) is a longitudinal twin study that recruited over 16,000 twin-pairs born between 1994 and 1996 in England and Wales through national birth records. More than 10,000 of these families are still engaged in the study. TEDS was and still is a representative sample of the population in England and Wales. Rich cognitive and emotional/behavioral data have been collected from the twins from infancy to emerging adulthood, with data collection at first contact and at ages 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 21, enabling longitudinal genetically sensitive analyses. Data have been collected from the twins themselves, from their parents and teachers, and from the UK National Pupil Database. Genotyped DNA data are available for 10,346 individuals (who are unrelated except for 3320 dizygotic co-twins). TEDS data have contributed to over 400 scientific papers involving more than 140 researchers in 50 research institutions. TEDS offers an outstanding resource for investigating cognitive and behavioral development across childhood and early adulthood and actively fosters scientific collaborations.
The Children of the Twins Early Development Study (CoTEDS) is a new prospective children-of-twins study in the UK, designed to investigate intergenerational associations across child developmental stages. CoTEDS will enable research on genetic and environmental factors that underpin parent–child associations, with a focus on mental health and cognitive-related traits. Through CoTEDS, we will have a new lens to examine the roles that parents play in influencing child development, as well as the genetic and environmental factors that shape parenting behavior and experiences. Recruitment is ongoing from the sample of approximately 20,000 contactable adult twins who have been enrolled in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) since infancy. TEDS twins are invited to register all offspring to CoTEDS at birth, with 554 children registered as of May 2019. By recruiting the second generation of TEDS participants, CoTEDS will include information on adult twins and their offspring from infancy. Parent questionnaire-based data collection is now underway for 1- and 2-year-old CoTEDS infants, with further waves of data collection planned. Current data collection includes the following primary constructs: child mental health, temperament, language and cognitive development; parent mental health and social relationships; parenting behaviors and feelings; and other socioecological factors. Measurement tools have been selected with reference to existing genetically informative cohort studies to ensure overlap in phenotypes measured at corresponding stages of development. This built-in study overlap is intended to enable replication and triangulation of future analyses across samples and research designs. Here, we summarize study protocols and measurement procedures and describe future plans.
Anxiety disorders are common, and cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) is a first-line treatment. Candidate gene studies have suggested a genetic basis to treatment response, but findings have been inconsistent.
To perform the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of psychological treatment response in children with anxiety disorders (n = 980).
Presence and severity of anxiety was assessed using semi-structured interview at baseline, on completion of treatment (post-treatment), and 3 to 12 months after treatment completion (follow-up). DNA was genotyped using the Illumina Human Core Exome-12v1.0 array. Linear mixed models were used to test associations between genetic variants and response (change in symptom severity) immediately post-treatment and at 6-month follow-up.
No variants passed a genome-wide significance threshold (P=5×10–8) in either analysis. Four variants met criteria for suggestive significance (P<5×10–6) in association with response post-treatment, and three variants in the 6-month follow-up analysis.
This is the first genome-wide therapygenetic study. It suggests no common variants of very high effect underlie response to CBT. Future investigations should maximise power to detect single-variant and polygenic effects by using larger, more homogeneous cohorts.
We previously reported an association between 5HTTLPR genotype and
outcome following cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) in child anxiety
(Cohort 1). Children homozygous for the low-expression short-allele
showed more positive outcomes. Other similar studies have produced mixed
results, with most reporting no association between genotype and CBT
To replicate the association between 5HTTLPR and CBT outcome in child
anxiety from the Genes for Treatment study (GxT Cohort 2,
n = 829).
Logistic and linear mixed effects models were used to examine the
relationship between 5HTTLPR and CBT outcomes. Mega-analyses using both
cohorts were performed.
There was no significant effect of 5HTTLPR on CBT outcomes in Cohort 2.
Mega-analyses identified a significant association between 5HTTLPR and
remission from all anxiety disorders at follow-up (odds ratio 0.45,
P = 0.014), but not primary anxiety disorder
The association between 5HTTLPR genotype and CBT outcome did not
replicate. Short-allele homozygotes showed more positive treatment
outcomes, but with small, non-significant effects. Future studies would
benefit from utilising whole genome approaches and large, homogenous
Diurnal preference is an individual's preference for daily activities and sleep timing and is strongly correlated with the underlying circadian clock and the sleep-wake cycle validating its use as an indirect circadian measure in humans. Recent research has implicated DNA methylation as a mechanism involved in the regulation of the circadian clock system in humans and other mammals. In order to evaluate the extent of epigenetic differences associated with diurnal preference, we examined genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation in DNA from monozygotic (MZ) twin-pairs discordant for diurnal preference. MZ twins were selected from a longitudinal twin study designed to investigate the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in the development of emotional and behavioral difficulties. Fifteen pairs of MZ twins were identified in which one member scored considerably higher on the Horne–Ostberg Morningness–Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) than the other. Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns were assessed in twins’ buccal cell DNA using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChips. Quality control and data pre-processing was undertaken using the wateRmelon package. Differentially methylated probes (DMPs) were identified using an analysis strategy taking into account both the significance and the magnitude of DNA methylation differences. Our data indicate that DNA methylation differences are detectable in MZ twins discordant for diurnal preference. Moreover, downstream gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis on the top-ranked diurnal preference associated DMPs revealed significant enrichment of pathways that have been previously associated with circadian rhythm regulation, including cell adhesion processes and calcium ion binding.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
Childhood depressive symptoms may arise from genetic and environmental risks, which act to bias the ways in which children process emotional information. Previous studies show that several “cognitive biases” are heritable and share genetic and environmental risks with depressive symptoms. Past research suggests that many cognitive biases only reflect genetic risks for depressive symptoms from adolescence. The present study sought to identify (a) when interpersonal cognitions mature as risk factors for depressive symptoms by examining whether these factors are stable and predict symptoms across time in childhood, and (b) the extent to which interpersonal cognitions reflect inherited/environmental risks on children's depressive symptoms. Results showed that there was some stability for interpersonal cognitive biases from age 8 to 10 years (rs = .32–.43). Only the absence of positive self/other perceptions, and negative peer and mother expectations at age 8 predicted depressive symptoms at age 10 (after controlling for depressive symptoms at age 8). The absence of positive self/other perceptions shared genetic influences with depressive symptoms within and across time. Across middle to late childhood, interpersonal cognitions begin to operate as vulnerability-trait factors for depressive symptoms, gradually reflecting distal genetic risks on symptoms.
Depression is known to be associated with a wide array of environmental factors. Such associations are due at least in part to genetic influences on both. This issue has been little explored with preadolescent children. Measures of family chaos and parenting style at age 9 and child depressive symptoms at age 12 were completed by 3,258 twin pairs from the Twins Early Development Study and their parents. Quantitative genetic modeling was used to explore common and unique genetic and environmental influences on both family environment and later depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms at age 12 were significantly heritable. Moderate genetic effects influenced parenting style and family chaos at the age of 9, indicating gene–environment correlation. There were significant genetic correlations between family environment and depressive symptoms. There was some evidence of a Gene × Environment interaction, with stronger genetic effects on depressive symptoms for children with more suboptimal family environment. There was an Environment × Environment interaction, with effects of nonshared environment on depressive symptoms stronger for twins with more adverse parenting experiences. There is some evidence for gene–environment correlation between aspects of family environment in middle childhood and subsequent depressive symptoms. This suggests that one of the mechanisms by which genes lead to depressive symptoms may be by themselves influencing depressogenic environments.
The Genesis 12–19 (G1219) Study is an ongoing longitudinal study of a sample of UK twin pairs, non-twin sibling pairs, and their parents. G1219 was initially designed to examine the role of gene–environment interplay in adolescent depression. However, since then data have continued to be collected from both parents and their offspring into young adulthood. This has allowed for longitudinal analyses of depression and has enabled researchers to investigate multiple phenotypes and to ask questions about intermediate mechanisms. The study has primarily focused on emotional development, particularly depression and anxiety, which have been assessed at multiple levels of analysis (symptoms, cognitions, and relevant environmental experiences). G1219 has also included assessment of a broader range of psychological phenotypes ranging from antisocial behaviors and substance use to sleep difficulties, in addition to multiple aspects of the environment. DNA has also been collected. The first wave of data collection began in the year 1999 and the fifth wave of data collection will be complete before the end of 2012. In this article, we describe the sample, data collection, and measures used. We also summarize some of the key findings to date.