Home Health and Fitness Support From Others in Stressful Times Can Ease Impact of Genetic Depression Risk

Support From Others in Stressful Times Can Ease Impact of Genetic Depression Risk

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overview: Social support during stressful times can help reduce the risk of developing symptoms in people with a genetic predisposition to depression.

sauce: University of Michigan

It’s always a good idea to reach out to support those who are under stress. There is a possibility.

This study uses data from two very different groups of people under stress to show the importance of social support in reducing the risk of developing symptoms of depression in general. A new doctor in the most rigorous years of training and an elderly person whose spouse recently died.

However, the greatest effect was seen in those with the most genetic mutations that increase the risk of depression.

This paper uses a measure of genetic risk called the polygenic risk score. It is based on decades of research into which small mutations in specific genes are associated with depression risk.

Compared with study subjects with low polygenic risk scores for depression, physicians and widows with high risk scores had higher rates of depression after losing social support, but had higher rates of depression after losing social support, but were less likely to become socially active during stressful times. Depression rates were also lower when receiving support.

Research published in American Journal of Psychiatry The University of Michigan team suggests that more could be done to direct social support to those who can most benefit.

Genes, stress and social connections

“Our data show that there was great variability in the level of social support received by individuals during these stressful times, and how that changed over time,” said the first author. says Jennifer Cleary of Her Sen, MD, Ph.D. from UM Medical School.

“We hope that these findings, incorporating genetic risk scores and measures of social support and depressive symptoms, will shed light on the interaction of genes and the environment, particularly the importance of social ties in depression risk.” .”

Sen, director of the Eisenberg Center for Family Depression and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, said that even if genetic research reveals more DNA mutations linked to vulnerability to depression, those mutations may be associated with depression. He adds that it is very important to know how it leads to disease.

“Further understanding of the different genetic profiles associated with susceptibility to loss of social support, sleep deprivation, excessive work stress, and other risk factors will help develop personalized guidance for depression prevention. It may help.

“In the meantime, these findings reaffirm how important social connections, social support, and an individual’s sensitivity to the social environment are as factors in well-being and depression prevention.”

Different Populations, Similar Patterns

The new study used data from two long-term studies that capture genetic, mood, environmental, and other data from participating populations of individuals.

One is the Intern Health Study, which enrolls first-year residents (also called interns) in the United States and abroad, and is led by Sen.

The other is the Health and Retirement Study, based at the UM Institute for Social Research.

Data in the new paper are from 1,011 interns (nearly half of whom are women) trained in hospitals across the country and from 435 recent studies for which data were available from surveys conducted before and after the death of a spouse. It was obtained from widowed individuals, 71% of whom were women. .

As Sen and his team have shown in a previous study, interns experienced dramatic depressive symptoms during a stressful year of training involving long, irregular work hours in an environment far from friends and family. increased significantly (126%).

Among widows and widowers, depressive symptoms increased 34% over pre-widow scores. This correlates with past research showing that the loss of a spouse is one of life’s greatest stressors, Cleary said.

crossover effect

The researchers then considered the depression symptom findings along with each person’s polygenic risk score for depression and individual responses to questions about connections with friends, family, and other social supporters. Did.

Most interns lost social support from their pre-internship days. This aligns well with the common experience of leaving medical school and going into a new environment that no one may know about.

Interns with the highest polygenic risk scores and who also lost social support had the highest scores on measures of depressive symptoms during the second half of the stressful intern year.

However, those who were equally at high genetic risk and had social support had far fewer depressive symptoms. The researchers call this the “crossover effect.”

Unlike interns, some widows reported increased social support because friends and family may have reached out and offered help or listened after the loss of a spouse. Reported.

But they also had a crossover effect. Widows with a higher genetic risk of depression and who had social support had a much smaller increase in depressive symptoms than widows with a similar genetic risk who lost social support after losing a spouse. .

However, the greatest effect was seen in those with the most genetic mutations that increase the risk of depression.image is public domain

Some widows lost social support or experienced no change in support and their depressive symptoms did not change. He notes that it will be important to examine the history of this group in light of the care they may have received.

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The team also hopes other researchers will study this same interplay of genetic risk, stress, and social support in other populations.

In the meantime, Cleary and Sen have a message for anyone going through a stressful time, or seeing a friend or relative going through a stressful time, please reach out, It is about maintaining or strengthening social ties.

Doing so, they point out, benefits both those who are stressed and those who reach out to them.

Reducing the level of ongoing stress a person faces is extremely important, whether it’s after a job, school, personal loss, or family situation.

Also, although this study did not examine the role of professional mental health support, individual and group therapy are important options for people with depression and other mental health problems.

About this genetics and depression research news

author: press office
sauce: University of Michigan
contact: Press Office – University of Michigan
image: image is public domain

Original research: closed access.
Polygenic risk and social support in predicting depression under stressBy Jennifer L. Cleary et al. American Journal of Psychiatry


Polygenic risk and social support in predicting depression under stress


Despite significant progress in identifying genomic variants associated with major depression, the mechanisms by which genomic and environmental factors jointly influence depression risk remain unclear. Genetically conferred susceptibility to the social environment may be one mechanism linking genomic variation and depressive symptoms. The authors compared his two samples (1,011 of her first-year interns from the Intern Health Study (IHS) who experienced significant life stress and 435 of her recently widowed health and retirement studies). study (HRS) participants.


Participants’ depressive symptoms and social support were assessed with questionnaires administered before and after life stressors. A polygenic risk score (PRS) for major depressive disorder was calculated for both samples.


Depressive symptom scores increased by 126% in the IHS sample after the start of the internship and by 34% after bereavement in the HRS sample.Both his IHS samples (incidence ratio [IRR]=0.96, 95% CI=0.93, 0.98) and the HRS sample (IRR=0.78, 95% CI=0.66, 0.92), the higher the PRS for depression, the greater the sensitivity to changes in social support. The Johnson-Neiman interval showed a crossover effect, with loss and gain of social support moderating the effect of PRS on depressive symptoms. 1.92).


The results of this study also suggest that individuals at high genomic risk for increased depressive symptoms in unfavorable social situations benefit more from fostering social environments.

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