Depression symptomatology was assessed up to four times at 2-year intervals on a sample of 2100 Danish twins initially aged 70 years and older. Data were analyzed using the biometric growth model approach proposed by Neale and McArdle (2000). Results show that occasion-specific depression is moderately and equally heritable in men and women (occasion-specific estimates of heritability ranged from 22% to 37%). Estimates of phenotypic variance, genetic variance, and heritability did not vary systematically across waves. In the best-fitting growth model, depression symptomatology was accounted for by two factors: (1) a level (i.e., average) effect that was highly heritable (estimate of 69% in women and 64% in men) and reflected overall vulnerability, and (2) a residual effect that was nonheritable and reflected occasion-specific circumstances that could either exacerbate or moderate inherited vulnerability. Attempts to identify specific genetic contributions to depression might profitably focus on average levels across multiple assessments, while attempts to identify specific environmental effects might profitably focus on deviations about this average.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (P01-AG08761) and the Danish National Research Foundation.
- Aging and depression
- Growth models
- Heritability of depression
- Twin studies