Genetic and environmental contributions to depression in Sri Lanka

Harriet A Ball, Athula Sumathipala, Sisira H Siribaddana, Yulia Kovas, Nick Glozier, Peter McGuffin, Matthew Hotopf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


BACKGROUND: Susceptibility to depression results from genetic and non-familially shared environmental influences in high-income, Western countries. Environments may play a different role for populations in different contexts.

AIMS: To examine heritability of depression in the first large, population-based twin study in a low-income country.

METHOD: Lifetime depression and a broader measure of depression susceptibility (D-probe) were assessed in 3908 adult twins in Sri Lanka (the CoTASS study).

RESULTS: There were gender differences for the broad definition (D-probe), with a higher genetic contribution in females (61%) than males (4%). Results were similar for depression, but the prevalence was too low to estimate heritability for males.

CONCLUSIONS: Genetic influences on depression in women appear to be at least as strong in this Sri Lankan sample as in higher-income countries. Conclusions are less clear for men but suggest a larger role for environments rather than genes. The nature as well as the magnitude of environmental influences may also differ across populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-9
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Depressive Disorder/epidemiology
  • Diseases in Twins/genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Sri Lanka/epidemiology
  • Young Adult

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