Background: We aim to investigate the extent to which shared genetic and shared environmental factors play a role in the co-occurrence of symptoms of depression and cardiovascular risk factors. Methods: The analyses included 2383 individuals from a genetically isolated population in the Netherlands (mean age 48.7 years (standard deviation 15.1), percentage of women 56.9%). Symptoms of depression were assessed using the Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Depression subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-D). Assessment of cardiovascular risk factors included systolic and diastolic blood pressure, plasma, glucose levels, high and low density lipoprotein (HDL, LDL) and total cholesterol levels. Results: Overall, we found that HADS-D was significantly correlated to total cholesterol levels (correlation coefficient [ρ] = 0.05), and inversely associated to HDL (ρ = - 0.06). Statistically significant genetic correlations (ρG) were found between CES-D scores and total plasma cholesterol (ρG = 0.30), LDL (ρG = 0.31) and total cholesterol/HDL ratios (ρG = 0.25). For HADS-D scores, a significant genetic correlation was found with total cholesterol/HDL ratios (ρG = 0.27). Environmental correlations (ρE) with an opposite direction were found between CES-D and both total cholesterol (ρE = - 0.16) and LDL (ρE = - 0.15). Limitation: By adjusting for sibship, we are taking into account environmental effects, however we cannot exclude dominance variance. Conclusions: Our study shows that there is evidence for shared genetic factors contributing to the co-occurrence of symptoms of depression and lipid levels. This finding suggests a joint genetic pathogenesis. Future research is encouraged to assess susceptibility genes for mood disorders to be studied for cardiovascular disorders and vice versa.

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Journal of Affective Disorders
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

López León, S., Aulchenko, Y., Tiemeier, H., Oostra, B., van Duijn, C., & Janssens, C. (2010). Shared genetic factors in the co-occurrence of symptoms of depression and cardiovascular risk factors. Journal of Affective Disorders, 122(3), 247–252. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2009.07.008