Researchers uncovered that specific genes raise the risk of depression, but vary based on ancestry group. The study was published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
As part of the largest study conducted into the genetic risks of depression, researchers assessed the data of East Asian populations, establishing five new gene variants linked to the illness.
The study occurred between early-2019 and mid-2021. It involved more than 190,000 participants, most of which were women and in middle adulthood.
Researchers also found that the genes linked to depression vary among European and East Asian groups. The study showed that individuals of East Asian descent were more likely to experience depression if they had a higher body mass index; that was not the case with those of European descent.
“We were surprised to find many differences in the depression genes for Europeans and East Asians, which shows the need to increase the diversity of samples in these types of studies and to be cautious about generalizing findings about genes in causing depression,” said Karoline Kuchenbäcker, the study’s lead author, in a press release.
“Genetic research has the potential to contribute to new treatments. But if the foundational research did not involve appropriately diverse study populations, then new treatments might not work the same for everyone, and may contribute to health disparities.”
“These results support caution against generalizing findings about depression risk factors across populations and highlight the need to increase the ancestral and geographic diversity of samples with consistent phenotyping,” the JAMA findings conclude.