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Gender differences in heritability of depressive symptoms in the elderly

Journal article
Authors M Jansson
M. Gatz
S. Berg
Boo Johansson
B. Malmberg
G.E. McClearn
M. Schalling
Nancy L. Pedersen
Volume 34
Issue 3
Pages 471-479
ISSN 0033-2917
Publication year 2004
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 471-479
Language en
Keywords population-ascertained subsamples, pilot swedish twin, older-adults, environmental-contributions, affective-illness, major depression, community, sample, women, genes
Subject categories Psychiatry, Psychology


BACKGROUND: The present study aimed to investigate the relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on depressive symptoms in the elderly. METHOD: Depressive symptoms were assessed through the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale. The CES-D scale was administered to 959 twin pairs (123 female MZs, 90 male MZs, 207 same-sex female DZs, 109 same-sex male DZs and 430 opposite-sex DZs) aged 50 years or older (mean age 72 years). A dichotomous depressed state variable was constructed based on CES-D cut-offs and self-reported use of antidepressant medication. Structural equation models were fitted to the data to dissect genetic and environmental variance components. RESULTS: The sex-specific heritability estimates for depressive symptoms were 14% for males and 29% for females and 23% when constrained to be equal for men and women. The prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms was 16% for men and 24% for women. Heritability estimates for the dichotomous depressed state measure were 7% for males and 49% for females in the full model and 33% when constrained to be equal. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that depressive symptoms in the elderly are moderately heritable, with a higher heritability for women than men, although differences in heritability estimates were not statistically significant.

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