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Study looks at depression and causes

By Ayesha Hana Shaji
Texas Metro News Team

A new study by Cleary et al., Polygenic Risk and Social Support in Predicting Depression Under Stress, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry sheds light on the complex concession between nature and nurture in relation to the risk of depression.

April is Stress Awareness Month, a time to focus on the impact of stress and ways to manage it. 

The study suggests that individuals with a high genetic risk for depression may be more sensitive to changes in their social environment, both positive and negative.

By using two groups of people who experienced significant life stress, 1,011 first-year medical interns and 435 recently widowed individuals, researchers assessed their depressive symptoms and social support levels before and after the stressor. They also calculated their polygenic risk scores (PRS) for major depressive disorder.


The results showed that those with a high PRS for depression were more likely to experience increased depressive symptoms in response to changes in their social support. 

Depressive symptom scores increased by 126% after the start of internship in the interns and by 34% after widowing for the recent widows. 

However, the study also found that individuals with a high genetic risk for depression may benefit more from nurturing social environments. This suggests that social support may be an important protective factor for those who are at risk for depression.

As Stress Awareness Month is observed it is crucial to recognize the impact of stress on mental health and take steps to manage it, including building strong social support networks. The study shows the importance of not only social support, but also considering genetic factors as well when assessing depression risk and choosing interventions. 

To read more about the study, click here. If you or someone you know may be in need of mental health care, click here


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