Scientists discover six genetic links to anxiety – The Hill

Posted: January 8, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Researchers say theyve discovered six genetic variants associated with the development of anxiety disorders in what they call the largest study of anxiety traits to date.

In a study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers examined genetic and health data from 200,000 U.S. veterans. The data was compiled by a research program, the Million Veteran Program, funded by the government to determine how genes, lifestyle and military exposures affect health and illness.

While there have been many studies on the genetic basis of depression, far fewer have looked for variants linked to anxiety, disorders of which afflict as many as 1 in 10 Americans, Murray Stein, a staff psychiatrist in the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said in a statement.

In the analysis, researchers discovered six genetic variants associated with higher risks of developing anxiety disorders. The variants related to anxiety disorders were found on chromosomes 1,3,6,7 and 20. The studys authors called it an important step forward in understanding how genes contribute to mental conditions.

The variant on chromosome 7 is identified to be correlated with higher occurrences of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Its also associated with the reception of estrogen, but researchers were reluctant to draw the conclusion on if this could explain perhaps why women are twice as likely than men to be affected by anxiety disorders. Thats because while women veterans were included in the study, more than 90 percent of the participants were male. The studys authors say more research is needed on the issue.

The study also found five of the genetic variants were found in white Americans, while an additional variant was found in African Americans.

Minorities are underrepresented in genetic studies, and the diversity of the Million Veteran Program was essential for this part of the project, Dan Levey, of the VA Connecticut Healthcare Center and Yale University said in a statement.

The genetic variant we identified occurs only in individuals of African ancestry, and would have been completely missed in less diverse cohorts.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 40 million people in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.

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Scientists discover six genetic links to anxiety - The Hill

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