November 1993

A Longitudinal Twin Study of 1-Year Prevalence of Major Depression in Women

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(11):843-852. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820230009001

Objectives:  This study seeks to clarify the etiologic importance and temporal stability of the genetic and environmental risk factors for 1-year prevalence of major depression (1YP-MD) in women.

Design:  One-year prevalence of major depression was personally assessed, using DSM-III-R criteria, at two time points a minimum of 1 year apart.

Participants:  Both members of 938 adult femalefemale twin pairs ascertained from the population-based Virginia Twin Registry.

Results:  The correlation in liability to 1YP-MD was much greater in monozygotic (MZ) than in dizygotic (DZ) twins at time 1 alone, time 2 alone, or at either time 1 or time 2. Model fitting suggested that the liability to 1YP-MD was due to additive genes and individual specific envi- ronment with a heritability of 41% to 46% and was not biased by violations of the equal environment assumption. Jointly analyzing both times of assessment using a longitudinal twin model suggested that, over a 1-year period, genetic effects on the liability to 1YP-MD were entirely stable, while environmental effects were entirely occasion specific.

Conclusions:  These results suggest that (1) genetic factors play a moderate etiologic role in the 1YP-MD, (2) the temporal stability of the liability to major depression in adult women is largely or entirely genetic in origin, and (3) environmental factors play a significant role in the etiology of major depression, but their effects are generally transitory and do not result in enduring changes in the liability to illness.