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Genes Play Big Role in Female Depression
Women are almost twice as likely as men to inherit a vulnerability to the illness, study finds

FRIDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Women are more likely than men to inherit major depression from their parents, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from about 42,000 twins, and found that heritability of depression is 42 percent in women and about 29 percent in men. The study shows that genes contribute more strongly to the risk of depression in women, and that certain genetic factors may operate in one sex and not the other.

For example, there may be genes that alter the risk for depression in a woman's response to sex hormone cycles, particularly after childbirth. While these genes would affect a woman's risk for major depression, they wouldn't be a factor in men.

"Our work, together with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, represents the largest epidemiological study of depression in twins done to date. In addition, it broadly replicates what has been shown by our earlier work using the Virginia Twin Registry," study author Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a prepared statement.

"In particular, we have shown that depression is a moderately heritable disorder, suggesting that genetic factors are important, but by no means overwhelming," Kendler said.

The study appears in the January issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

The National Mental Health Association has more about women and depression.

Copyright © 2002 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, Jan 5, 2006

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