The risk of depression cannot be predicted by just a few sets of genes, according to a new study. Researchers say trying to treat the mental health issue by targeting just a few "culprits" is not the solution.
For the study, the team analysed data of close to 620,000 individuals. The team used genetic and the information from the survey that was gathered from individuals via the UK Biobank, 23andMe, and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. They wanted to know if specific genes were in fact linked with depression on its own or when mixed with an environmental factor like childhood trauma. Through their research, they found that 18 most highly-studied candidate genes for depression were no more associated with the condition that those genes that were randomly chosen. "We found that, as a set, these candidate genes are no more related to depression than any random gene out there," Matthew Keller, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, told a news portal.
Over the years, there have been many studies that claim a particular set of genes play a role in one's risk of experiencing depression. This notion made many people hopeful that by identifying these genes, better treatment could be provided to tackle these specific genes and improve one's mental health condition. However, the team from the University of Colorado Boulder in the US, believe these studies are wrong and that the scientific community should rethink what is popularly known as"candidate gene hypotheses".
"This study confirms that efforts to find a single gene or handful of genes which determine depression are doomed to fail," Richard Border, a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder, told a news portal. Keller further added: "We are not saying that depression is not heritable at all. It is. What we are saying is that depression is influenced by many many variants, and individually each of those has a minuscule effect." The study's findings were originally published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Meanwhile, researchers in psychology and other fields continue to publish studies claiming that there are a set of "depression genes". To this, Keller stated: "It's like in 'The Emporer Wears No Clothes.' There's just nothing there. I hope this is the final nail in the coffin for those kinds of studies."
While whether or not the depression gene does exist is debatable, researchers have found the risk of depression is high for women that are overworked. Working more than 55 or more hours a week and on weekends have been found to have a significant impact on women's mental health. "Such jobs, when combined with frequent or complex interactions with the public or clients, have been linked to higher levels of depression," researchers of this study stated. Adding, “Our findings of more depressive symptoms among women working extra long hours might also be explained by the potential double burden experienced by women when their long hours in paid work are added on their time in domestic labour.”