Depression may be thought of as a mental disorder, but new evidence shows that it is actually a physical one as well, with a propensity for it handed down from generation to generation. In fact, a major new study led by researcher Dr. Roy Perlis, Medical Director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, has uncovered 17 different genetic variations ties to this mental condition in people of European heritage alone.
As a result, it is now been proven that nearly 40% of clinical depression cases can be tied to a genetic link, with the rest resulting from a combination of environmental and other factors. In fact, scientists at the Stanford School of Medicine (SSM) now estimate that 10% of people living in the US will experience some form of clinical depression during their lifetime.
They also found that someone with other family members who suffers from this mental condition is 5-times more likely to be affected by it as well, due in part to a shared chromosome known as 3p25-26. This genetic marker was found in over 800 families suffering from participating in Perlis’s study conducted in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer as part of an alliance with California genetic profiling company 23andMe. It was also found that gender seems to play a part in susceptibility with women seen as having a 42% of being stricken with heredity depression vs a 29% chance for men.
In order to zero-in on genetic markers indicating a person’s risk for depression, 23andMecoolected saliva samples from more than 300,000 individuals. Of those nearly 76,000 (anonymously) admitted to having been diagnosed with, or under treatment for depression. Resulting data was then combined with that from another study involving 9,000 people with depression and 9,500 “healthy” adults, used as “controls.”
The scientists also connected serotonin to depression. Serotonin is a chemical produced by the brain to enable its neurons to transmit signals from one area to another. Often referred to as the “feel good” chemical, approximately 90% of the body’s serotonin can be found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.s communication between brain neurons. It has long been believed that an improper balance of serotonin can lead to mood disorders, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Although a lot more research is needed to fully understand the physical causes of depression, Perlis believes that by proving it is (indeed) a biological condition, it can not only help with the development of better treatments, these studies can significantly reduce some of the ‘stigma” often associated with it.