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Phenotypic and aetiological architecture of depressive symptoms in a Japanese twin sample

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2019

Yusuke Takahashi*
The Hakubi Center for Advanced Research and Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, UK
Jean-Baptiste Pingault
Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, UK Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's College London, London, UK
Shinji Yamagata
Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Nagoya University, Aichi, Japan
Juko Ando
Faculty of Letters, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan
Author for correspondence: Yusuke Takahashi, E-mail:



The phenotypic and aetiological architecture of depression symptomatology has been mostly studied in Western samples. In this study, we conducted a genetically informed factor analysis to elucidate both the phenotypic and aetiological architectures of self-reported depression among a Japanese adult twin sample.


Depressive symptoms assessed by Zung's Self-rating Depression Scale were self-rated by 425 twin pairs (301 monozygotic and 124 dizygotic twin pairs) in a community sample in Japan.


An exploratory factor analysis extracted three symptom domains representing cognitive, affective and somatic symptomatology. A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated that a bi-factor solution fitted better than the alternative solutions, implying that depression may be defined as a combination of a single general construct and three factors specific to each of the three symptom domains. A multivariate genetic analysis with the bi-factor solution showed that the general factor was substantially heritable (47%), and that only the affective symptom domain was significantly heritable (29%) among the three specific factors, their remaining variance being explained by non-shared environmental influences.


Depression symptomatology appears to be adequately captured by a substantially heritable general factor. The heritability of this factor (47%) in a Japanese adult sample is in line with commonly reported heritability estimates for depression. The three specific factors – cognitive, affective and somatic – are mostly explained by non-shared environmental factors, which include measurement error. The extent to which these specific factors are uniquely associated with correlates of depression when the general factor is accounted for should be investigated in future studies.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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