Life events and depression in a community sample of siblings

F. V. Rijsdijk*, P. C. Sham, A. Sterne, S. Purcell, P. McGuffin, A. Farmer, D. Goldberg, A. Mann, S. S. Cherny, M. Webster, D. Ball, T. C. Eley, R. Plomin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The overall aim of the GENESiS project is to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for anxiety/depression, and to examine the interaction between these loci and psychosocial adversity. Here we present life-events data with the aim of clarifying: (i) the aetiology of life events as inferred from sibling correlations; (ii) the relationship between life events and measures of anxiety and depression, as well as neuroticism; and (iii) the interaction between life events and neuroticism on anxiety/depression indices. Methods. We assessed the occurrence of one network and three personal life-event categories and multiple indices of anxiety/depression including General Health Questionnaire, Anhedonic Depression, Anxious Arousal and Neuroticism in a large community-based sample of 2150 sib pairs, 410 trios and 81 quads. Liability threshold models and raw ordinal maximum likelihood were used to estimate within-individual and between-sibling correlations of life events. The relationship between life events and indices of emotional states and personality were assessed by multiple linear regression and canonical correlations. Results. Life events showed sibling correlations of 0·37 for network events and between 0·10 and 0·19 for personal events. Adverse life events were related to anxiety and depression and, to a less extent, neuroticism. Trait-vulnerability (as indexed by co-sib's neuroticism, anxiety and depression) accounted for 11% and life events for 3% of the variance in emotional states. There were no interaction effects. Conclusions. Life events show moderate familiality and are significantly related to symptoms of anxiety and depression in the community. Appropriate modelling of life events in linkage and association analyses should help to identify QTLs for depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-410
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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