Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale

Special Articles

Genetic opportunities for psychiatric epidemiology: on life stress and depression

Andrea Danesea1 c1

a1 Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London (United Kingdom)

Summary

Aims – Genetics can offer new resources to epidemiology. This review will consider recent findings regarding the link between stress and depression as an example to illustrate the added value of employing genetics in epidemiological studies. Methods – Systematic review of medical and psychological databases. Results – Genetic and environmental factors may correlate. This suggests the potential for genetic mediation of the exposure to the environment. Gene-environment correlations can help epidemiologists to better understand causal pathways and suggest effective therapeutic strategies. Genetic and environmental factors may also interact. This suggests the potential for genetic modification of environmental effects on disease risk. Gene-environment interactions can help epidemiologists to identify vulnerable individuals and strata-specific environmental effects. Conclusions – New models of disease based on the interplay between genes and environments are providing epidemiology with a new set of testable hypotheses that will advance our understanding of mental health and illness.

Declaration of Interest: Dr. Danese is holder of the Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship in Clinical Science.

(Received April 22 2008)

(Accepted April 22 2008)

Correspondence

c1 Dr. A. Danese, SGDP Research Centre Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF (United Kingdom). E-mail: a.danese@iop.kcl.ac.uk