Research has shown that the set points for depression and anxiety are particularly stable over time. Why?
“The overwhelming view within psychiatry and psychology is that is due to genetic factors,” says Virginia Commonwealth University psychiatrist Kenneth S. Kendler. “Yet we know that extreme environmental adversities, such as abuse in childhood or wartime trauma, have a long-term impact on people.” Kendler had a hunch that environmental experiences also influence the set points for anxiety and depression.
His new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, concludes that they do. Kendler and an international roster of collaborators—VCU colleagues Lindon J. Eaves, Erik K. Loken, Judy Silberg, and Charles O. Gardner; Nancy L. Pedersen and Paul Lichtenstein of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden; Christel M. Middeldorp and Dorret Boomsma of VU University, Amsterdam; and Chandra Reynolds of the University of California—find that life experiences play a central role in establishing the set points for anxiety and depression, perhaps even more than genes do.
Kendler used a group of research subjects time-honored for testing the effects of nature and nurture: identical twins, whose genes are the same, but whose life stories diverge, showing the effects of environmental factors on a developing person.
Scouring the world, he gathered a large and varied sample: nine data sets from longitudinal twin studies—a total of more than 12,000 twins, including 4,235 pairs and 3,678 unpaired twins, from three continents. The twins had all completed reports of their own symptoms of anxiety and depression, three times in eight of the studies; twice in the ninth. Each study covered five or six years. The youngest subjects were just under 11, the oldest almost 67.
Patching together a composite of these life segments—from pre-pubescence to early adulthood, middle age to retirement age—VCU’s Charles Gardner designed a series of statistical analyses, which yielded a clear curve. The set points of the 10-year-old pairs were the same or closely similar. As the twins moved through adolescence and adulthood, however, those points diverged increasingly, until the differences leveled out at around age 60.
The set points were stable—they didn’t wander all over the place—though not permanent; they weren’t necessarily the same for 50 years. But in examining the difference between those points in pairs of genetically identical people, the researchers saw that while genes may play a part in determining our emotional predilections, it is life that shows our moods the place they want to settle.
The study has implications beyond anxiety and depression, says Kendler. “Environmental experiences have a memory and stay with us. What governs the emotional set point of adults is a mixture of genetic factors and the total aggregate of environmental experiences.” The moral of the story? “If you want to be happy in old age, live a good life.”
For more information about this study, please contact: Kenneth Kendler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "The Impact of Environmental Experiences across the Lifespan On Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or email@example.com.
Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Trade Fair News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine