Genetic Risk For Clinical Depression Linked to Physical Symptoms


There is increasing concern about genetic and physiological factors that may lead to increased vulnerability to depression. Recent studies have shown that geneticists can predict the presence of clinical depression linked to physical symptoms by examining genetic patterns in families with patients. If a family member displayed signs of depression, the chance of that person developing depression would be increased. For example, if one sibling displays clinical depression, the chances of that sibling also developing the disorder are increased.

Similarly, geneticists can also predict the likelihood of an individual developing a specific illness or disease by studying the familial characteristics of that individual. If an individual has a family history of depression and heart problems, there is a greater likelihood that he or she might also develop the disorder. The studies of genetic disorders have been used to understand more about the etiology of depression and how to treat it.

Clinical depression is usually associated with some physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia, and fatigue. These symptoms can be heightened in individuals suffering from depression. If an individual with depression does not take care to eat healthy or maintain a healthy lifestyle, then the effects of that poor eating and inactive life style will start to impact their physical health and could ultimately lead to depression. Researchers now believe that poor eating habits and inactive lifestyles are inherited traits. This means that if your parents developed poor eating habits, chances are that you will as well.

The new study

Individuals with higher genetic risk of clinical depression are more likely to have physical symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and migraine, according to the University of Queensland.

Dr. Enda Byrne conducted the research at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, finding that depression was a serious disorder with lifetime risks of poor health.

“A large proportion of people with clinically-diagnosed depression present initially to doctors with physical symptoms that cause distress and can severely impact on people’s quality of life,” he said.

“Our research aimed to better understand the biological basis of depression and found that assessing a broad range of symptoms was important,” Dr. Byrne said.

“Ultimately, our research aimed to better understand the genetic risks and generate more accurate risk scores for use in research and healthcare.”

The Highlights: 

15,000 volunteers provided details of their mental health histories, symptoms, and a DNA test using a saliva swab.

“We wanted to see how genetic risk factors based on clinical definitions of depression differed—from those based on a single question to those based on a doctor’s consultation about mental health problems,” Dr. Byrne said.

The Results: 

The research found that study participants with higher genetic risk for clinical depression are more likely to experience physical symptoms.

“It is also linked to higher rates of somatic symptoms—that is, physical symptoms that cause distress and can severely impact on people’s quality of life,” Dr. Byrne said.

“Our results highlight the need for larger studies investigating the broad range of symptoms experienced by people with depression.”

Depression and Medicine 

Advancements in genetic research have led to a better understanding of the impact of genetics in depression, medication management and treatment, and the necessity for pharmacogenomics testing. Pharmacogenetics, also called pharmacogenomics, is the study of how genes affect the body’s response to certain medicines. Pharmacogenetic testing looks at specific genes to help identify the types of medicines and dosages that may be right for you for more specific and effective treatment planning.

What does this mean for you and your family? 

Vita Medical Solutions offers a variety of genetic tests including a PGx Test.  The PGx Tests analyzes how you metabolize certain medications based on your genetic profile. Patients have different reasons for being tested or declining testing. For many, it is important to know whether a disease can be prevented or treated if a test is positive. Genetic test results might help a person make life decisions, such as family planning or insurance coverage. Your doctor and genetic counselor can provide information about the pros and cons of testing.

Are you a Candidate for Genetic Testing: 

To help assess whether you may benefit and from genetic testing, take our 1-minute assessment at: 

Call us 1.800.590.9292 (toll free) or email at [email protected]

Test. Know. Educate. Advocate.


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