Low genetic effect and age-specific family effect for symptoms of anxiety and depression in nuclear families, halfsibs and twins

K Tambs, T Moum
Journal of Affective Disorders 1993, 27 (3): 183-95
Questionnaire information on symptoms of anxiety/depression was obtained from 61,286 persons, most of whom could be grouped in families as spouses, parents, offspring, siblings, halfsibs and twins. The correlations between mental health in relatives, varying somewhat by sex, were: 0.27 for 18,768 pairs of spouses, 0.12 to 0.17 for 30,888 pairs of parents and offspring, 0.11 to 0.18 for 13,134 pairs of siblings, 0.27 to 0.35 for 57 pairs of MS twins, -0.06 to 0.10 for 60 pairs of DZ twins, 0.30 for 88 pairs of halfsibs reared together, and 0.16 for 40 pairs of halfsibs reared apart. The heritability was estimated to be between 0 and 0.20. There was a significant effect of environmental transmission from mother, but not from father, to offspring. The effect of environmental factors shared by sisters was substantial, the corresponding effect was lower in brothers, and zero in siblings of opposite sex. The correlations decreased with increasing age differences between relatives, implying effects of age-specific genes or environmental factors in the family.

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