Scientists have long believed depression was partly in the genes. In fact, they estimate that genetics explains about 40 percent of the risk for the disease.
Now, two teams studying different groups of people have pinpointed at least one spot in our genes where depression may lurk—on chromosome 3.
Both new studies, one by British researchers and one by Americans, were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The discovery may eventually lead to better depression treatments.
Why Genes Matter
Each one of us is born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, structures that hold our approximately 20,000 to 25,000 genes. Not only do those genes determine traits like our eye color, hair color and height, they also influence our health. Almost every disease is now thought to have at least some genetic component.
Scientists study the genes on each chromosome to help understand why some people are more prone to certain diseases. Knowing the genetic basis for a disease can help parents determine if they’re likely to pass it along to their children. And it can help doctors predict who will respond best to different therapies.
Watch for Depression Signs
Even as researchers learn more about genes and depression, they stress that other factors also contribute to the development of the disease. Chemical imbalances, hormones, other illnesses and stressful life events appear to play a role.
In some cases, nature and nurture interact. For example, another recent study found experiencing the death of someone close triggered depression in teens whose genes placed them at risk. Tell your doctor if you have a family history of depression. He or she can screen you carefully for signs of depression, including:
Treatment, including medications and psychotherapy, can help those with depression regardless of the cause. Get help if you or a loved one has five or more symptoms of depression for two weeks or longer.