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NIHR launches largest ever study of genetic links to depression and anxiety

Published: 18 September 2018

The NIHR and King’s College London are calling for 40,000 people diagnosed with depression or anxiety to enrol online for the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study and join the NIHR Mental Health Bioresource.

Researchers hope to establish the largest ever database of volunteers who can be called up to take part in research exploring the genetic factors behind the two most common mental health conditions – anxiety and depression.

The GLAD study will make important strides towards better understanding of these disorders and provide a pool of potential participants for future studies, reducing the time-consuming process of recruiting patients for research.

The NIHR has also this week announced a new collaboration between the country’s top mental health researchers and clinicians to solve some of the greatest mental health challenges facing the UK public. The NIHR Mental Health Translational Research Collaboration (TRC) will work with industry and charity partners to find new treatments and therapeutics.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the UK; 1 in 3 people will experience symptoms during their lifetime.

Research has shown 30-40% of the risk for both depression and anxiety is genetic and 60-70% due to environmental factors. Only by having a large, diverse group of people available for studies will researchers be able to determine how genetic and environmental triggers interact to cause anxiety and depression.

Leader of the GLAD study and the NIHR Mental Health BioResource, Dr Gerome Breen of King’s College London, said: “It’s a really exciting time to become involved in mental health research, particularly genetic research which has made incredible strides in recent years – we have so far identified 46 genetic links for depression and anxiety.

“By recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research, the GLAD Study will take us further than ever before. It will allow researchers to solve the big unanswered questions, address how genes and environment act together and help develop new treatment options.”

The GLAD Study, a collaboration between the NIHR BioResource and King’s College London, has been designed to be particularly accessible, with a view to motivating more people to take part in mental health research.

Research psychologist and study lead Professor Thalia Eley, King’s College London, said: “We want to hear from all different backgrounds, cultures, ethnic groups and genders, and we are especially keen to hear from young adults. By including people from all parts of the population, what we learn will be relevant to everyone. This is a unique opportunity to participate in pioneering medical science.”

The NIHR BioResource is a large repository of information from more than 100,000 people with and without health problems who are willing to be approached to participate in research studies investigating the link between genes, the environment and health and disease. The NIHR BioResource comprises 13 centres around England based at NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Clinical Research Facilities.

The NIHR Mental Health BioResource is a branch of the NIHR BioResource that aims to increase participation of people with mental health disorders in medical and psychological research. During the GLAD Study, participants will also be recruited into the NIHR Mental Health BioResource, based at the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.

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