Nearly 80 genes that could be linked to depression have been identified, a finding that adds to the evidence that it is partly a genetic disorder, said scientists. Depression, a common mental disorder, is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.
According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.
"This study identifies genes that potentially increase our risk of depression, adding to the evidence that it is partly a genetic disorder," said lead author David Howard, research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.
Some of the pinpointed genes are known to be involved in the function of synapses, tiny connectors that allow brain cells to communicate with each other through electrical and chemical signals, the researchers said.
The study could help explain why some people may be at a higher risk of developing the condition as well as help researchers develop drugs to tackle mental health conditions.
"The findings also provide new clues to the causes of depression and we hope it will narrow down the search for therapies that could help people living with the condition," Howard added.
For the study, published in Nature Communications, the team scanned the genetic code of 300,000 people to identify areas of DNA that could be linked to depression.
The WHO has identified strong links between depression and substance use disorders and diabetes and heart disease.
Depression is also an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.