Large analysis finds common genetics links between depression, neuroticism, and sense of well-being

| | April 27, 2016
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The role of genetics in mental illness is a complex topic. On the one hand, evidence of genetic and biological causes for mental illnesses may help to fight the stigma that often accompanies them. On the other hand, certain researchers have suggested that a focus on genetics rather than traumatic life events can run the risk of ignoring the social ills that underlie or enhance many mental illnesses.

A genetic study recently published in Nature Genetics describes the results from the work of an eye-popping 190 scientists around the world. It describes an in-depth exploration of three separate traits: depression, neuroticism, and subjective well-being. They found evidence suggesting that these three traits are influenced by some of the same genes and are linked to the pancreatic, adrenal, and central nervous systems.

Psychology researcher Richard Bentall argues that genetic studies are fruitless; so many genes have been identified as playing a role in mental illness that their medical usefulness becomes diluted. And, even when the genetics are simple, it’s not always helpful. “Consider Huntington’s Disease, a terrible degenerative neurological condition that is caused by a single dominant gene with a known biological function,” he writes. “Many years after this gene was discovered there is still no sign of a medical therapy for this simplest of all the genetic conditions.”

But the medical usefulness of genetic studies doesn’t begin and end with gene therapy. Understanding more about genetic contributors to mental illness can help us to understand the disorders themselves better, shining a light on the factors that influence them.

Read full, original post: Depression neuroticism, and sense of well-being may have genetic links

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