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Recent studies show that adverse life events have a significantly greater impact on depression onset for those with the s/s allele of the genotype for the 5-HT gene-linked promoter region. Research in genes related to risk of depression leads to the question of how this information is received by individuals.
To investigate factors related to the response to receiving one's own serotonin transporter genotype results.
Predictors of the impact of receiving individual genotype data were assessed in 128 participants in a study of gene–environment interaction in depression onset.
Two-thirds decided to learn their individual genotype results (receivers) and prior to disclosure this decision was associated with a perception of greater benefit from receipt of the information (P=0.001). Receivers completing the 2-week (n=76) and 3-month follow-up (n=78) generally reported feeling pleased with the information and having had a more positive experience than distress. However, distress was related to genotype, with those with the s/s allele being most affected.
There was high interest in, and satisfaction with, learning about one's serotonin transporter genotype. Participants appeared to understand that the gene conferred susceptibility to depression rather than a direct causal effect.
For families with multiple cases of bipolar disorder this study explored: attitudes towards childbearing; causal attributions for bipolar disorder, in particular the degree to which a genetic model is endorsed and its impact on the perceived stigma of bipolar disorder; and predictors of psychological distress.
Two hundred individuals (95 unaffected and 105 affected with either bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder – manic type, or recurrent major disorder) were surveyed, using mailed, self-administered questionnaires.
Thirty-five (35%) participants reported being ‘not at all willing to have children’ or ‘less willing to have children’ as a result of having a strong family history of bipolar disorder. Being not at all or less willing to have children was associated with perceived stigma of bipolar disorder [odds ratio (OR) 2·42, p=0·002], endorsement of a genetic model (OR 1·76, p=0·046), and being affected (OR 2·16, p=0·01). Among unaffected participants only, endorsement of a genetic model was strongly correlated with perceived stigma (rs=0·30, p=0·004). Perceiving the family environment as an important factor in causing bipolar disorder was significantly associated with psychological distress (OR 1·58, p=0·043) among unaffected participants. Among affected participants, perceived stigma was significantly correlated with psychological distress (OR 2·44, p=0·02), controlling for severity of symptoms (p<0·001).
Having a genetic explanation for bipolar disorder may exacerbate associative stigma among unaffected members from families with multiple cases of bipolar disorder, while it does not impact on perceived stigma among affected family members. Affected family members may benefit from interventions to ameliorate the adverse effects of perceived stigma.