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March 1986

Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in a Volunteer Twin Population: The Etiologic Role of Genetic and Environmental Factors

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Dr Kendler) and Human Genetics (Drs Kendler, Heath, Martin, and Eaves), Medical College of Virginia— Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1986;43(3):213-221. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1986.01800030023002

• We examined the etiologic role of genetic and environmental factors in 14 symptoms of anxiety and depression reported by 3,798 pairs of adult twins from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Twin Register. Multifactorlal multiple-threshold models fit the individual symptom scores well. For a substantial majority of the symptoms, the variance in liability was best explained by only genetic factors and environmental influences specific to the individual, where 33% to 46% of the variance was due to genetic factors. For four symptoms, it was not possible to choose definitively between models that, in addition to specific environment, included genetic vs familial environmental effects. These results provide strong evidence for the role of genetic factors in the etiology of symptoms of anxiety and depression as reported in a general population. Evidence for an etiologic role of familial environmental factors was much weaker. If familial environmental factors play any role in the production of these symptoms, they are more important in symptoms of depression than of anxiety, and the factors that predispose to these symptoms are only modestly correlated in males and females.

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