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Hopkins-led study finds that chronic form of depression runs in families

age 13 had 17 relatives (15.9%) with chronic illness.

"We have known for a long time that major depression runs in families, but we are still working on determining whether certain subtypes of the illness do so more strongly than others," says Potash. Our large study allows us the numbers to examine these questions in subgroups."

Potash credits lead author Francis Mondimore, M.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at Hopkins, with observing that many of the study participants reported having been depressed "as long as [they] can remember." This led Mondimore to focus on chronic -- or persistent -- depression over time. An estimated 30 percent of those with major depressive disorder have symptoms most or all of the time, with only incomplete remissions, over many years, according to Potash.

Mondimore says a similar technique, examining a subtype of illness, was used to discover a familial relationship in breast cancer in women -- a finding that paved the way to discovering a link between the BRCA1 gene and that disease.

Data for the GenRED project and for first-degree relatives was gathered using the Diagnostic Interview for Genetic Studies (DIGS), an method that documents the onset and duration of mood episodes and the presence or absence of such symptoms as loss of interest or ability to enjoy life, feeling guilty or down, fatigue, lack of concentration, loss of appetite or weight, and thoughts of death.

Study subjects were recruited to GenRED by the University of Iowa College of Medicine, Rush University Medical College, Columbia University Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Major depression and chronicity were diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) -- a standard guide for the classification of mental illness. DSM-IV criteria for major d
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Contact: Eric Vohr
evohr1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
5-Sep-2006


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