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Gene helps determine whether the stresses of life push you into depression, Science study says

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Everybody hurts sometimes, everybody cries, but not everybody becomes depressed. New findings suggest that the path to depression depends, in part, on a gene that determines how you react to the stresses of life the stress of losing a job, a partner, a house, or some combination of these and other possibilities. A team of psychologists and geneticists describe these findings in the 18 July issue of the journal Science published by AAAS, the science society.

Variations in a region of DNA next to the serotonin transporter gene help to determine whether stressful events will make you depressed. Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the brain. Assuming the same number of stressful life events, people with the least depression-resistant version of the gene are two and a half times more likely to get depressed than people with the most protective version of the gene. These findings reinforce the emerging view that the majority of mental illnesses and other complex diseases cannot be explained by genetic or environmental factors alone, but often arise from an interaction between the two.

"Stressful events tend to come together. People report things like, 'I lost my job, got divorced, and defaulted on my mortgage,'" said Terrie Moffitt, the corresponding author on the paper from King's College London, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Similar strings of unfortunate events are most likely to trigger clinical depression in people with the least protective version of the serotonin transporter gene, according to this research team led by Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt.

Depression, as defined by the authors, is a period of at least two weeks in the past year when a person
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Contact: Science Press Package Staff
scipak@aaas.org
202-326-6440
American Association for the Advancement of Science
17-Jul-2003


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