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Genetic Risk for Mental Health Conditions May Affect Living Choices

Relationship between environmental and genetic influences on mental health may be interrelated

FRIDAY, Oct. 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Genetic risk for a variety of mental health conditions may affect an individual’s choice of residence, according to a study published online Oct. 27 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Jessye M. Maxwell, from King’s College London, and colleagues assessed whether individuals with genetic predisposition to a range of psychiatric disorders have an increased likelihood to live in urban areas. The analysis included 385,793 U.K. Biobank participants.

The researchers observed significant associations between polygenic risk score (PRS) and higher population density across adult life (age 25 to >65 years), reaching highest significance at the 45- to 55-year age group for schizophrenia (88 people/km2), bipolar disorder (44 people/km2), anorexia nervosa (36 people/km2), and autism spectrum disorder (35 people/km2). For schizophrenia, PRS was also significantly associated with higher birthplace population density (37 people/km2). There was an association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder PRS and reduced population density in adult life (−31 people/km2 at age 35 to 45 years).

“The results from this study support the hypothesis of genetic selection of an individual’s environment, which intersects the traditional gene-environment dichotomy in the pathogenesis of mental disorders,” the authors write.

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