Genetic covariation between neuroticism and the symptoms of anxiety and depression

Authors

  • R. Jardine,

    1. Department of population biology, research school of biological sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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  • N. G. Martin,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of population biology, research school of biological sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
    2. Department of Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond
    • Department of Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia. Box 33 MCV Station, Richmond, VA 23298

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  • A. S. Henderson,

    1. National Health and Medical Research Council, Social Psychiatry Research Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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  • D. C. Rao

    EditorSearch for more papers by this author

Abstract

A genetic analysis of the trait of neuroticism and symptoms of anxiety and depression in 3,810 pairs of adult MZ and DZ twins is reported. Differences between people in these measures can be explained simply by differences in their genes and in their individual environmental experiences. There is no evidence that environmental experiences that are shared by cotwins, such as common family environment or social influences, are important. There are differences between the sexes in gene action affecting neuroticism, and genetic effects become more pronounced with age in females. The lack of evidence for dominance variance affecting neuroticism contrasts well with the detection of considerable genetical nonadditivity for extraversion in the same sample and reinforces the view that these two traits are not only statistically, but also genetically, quite independent.

An analysis of the causes of covariation between anxiety, depression, and neuroticism shows that additive gene effects are more important causes of covariation than environmental factors. Genetic variation in symptoms of anxiety and depression is largely dependent on the same factors as effect the neuroticism trait. However, there is also evidence for genetic variation specific to depression.

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