An article posted by Medical News explains that a new study carried out by the University of Queensland found that hereditary factors are partly responsible for childhood anxiety and depression that persists into adulthood. This study was the largest of its kind (involving data from 64,641 children between the ages of 3 to 18 years) to examine the role of genetics in repeated measures of anxiety and depression in children.
Professor Christel Middeldorp, associated with the UQ Child Health Research Centre and Children’s Health Queensland, stated that children who had similar levels of anxiety and depression tended to be alike genetically. The study also revealed a genetic overlap between childhood and adult mental health disorders when comparing the results in this childhood study with the results of previous adult studies. These findings can help mental health and medical professionals identify people most at risk of symptoms continuing across the lifespan and can help these individuals find suitable treatment(s) and resources.
Genetic variants need to be further investigated because they increase the risk of recurrence and co-occurrence with other disorders. According to Middledorp, “Mental health symptoms often come together, so those who experience anxiety or depression have a greater risk of disorders such as ADHD or aggressive behavior.” As substantiated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), genetics account for around 40% of a person’s risk of suffering anxiety and depression, with environmental factors accounting for the rest. There is a difference in how people respond to stressors and part of that difference is genetic.
Future research will analyze how genetics and environmental variables, such as school and family life, impact each other and how, together, they influence childhood anxiety and depression.