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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: No Significant Racial Differences in Depression Heritability

Young African-American women do not have a significantly higher genetic risk of depression than European-American women, according to a study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Alexis Duncan

[Photo: Dr. Alexis Duncan]

It was the first study to examine racial differences in the heritability of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) among African-American and European-American young women.

Researchers analyzed data from the Missouri Adolescent Female Twin Study, with baseline and follow-up interviews of 550 African-American pairs of twins and 3,226 European-American pairs. They found that despite a higher overall prevalence of depression and depression risk factors, African-American women did not have statistically different odds of having the disorder.

“The heritability of MDD was higher among African-Americans; however, we did not have sufficient statistical power to detect a difference,” said Dr. Alexis Duncan, assistant professor at the Brown School and lead author of the study. “These findings underscore the necessity of conducting genetic research on samples that include enough participants of non-European ancestry to detect differential effects by race,” she wrote.

The study was published in Twin Research and Human Genetics.

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