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Study Finds Genetic Link Between Smoking Addiction and Major Depression

A study of twins led by a researcher from Saint Louis University School of Public Health has found link between smoking and depression - genetics .

Qiang John Fu, M.D., Ph.D conducted a study of twins and found that the that a persons genes, that are also associated with conduct disorder, is why some people with a history of depression become smokers or why smokers trying to quit become depressed when they cant.

Dr. Fu and his team analyzed 3,360 pairs of middle-aged, predominantly Caucasian twins who served in the military during the Vietnam War.

Slightly more than half were identical twins who had a 100-percent genetic match and about 45 percent were fraternal twins who shared half their genes. Researchers compared the answers from the twins, and used a mathematical model to estimate the genetic and environmental influences on nicotine addiction and major depression.

Some people with a history of depression may become smokers as a way of self-medicating. Some people who are smokers might become depressed when they try to give up cigarettes and cant, Dr Fu said.

When I tried to find something to explain this correlation, I discovered the answer lay partly in a persons genes that are associated with conduct disorder, which is extreme rebellious behaviour of teens and children.

My findings are an alternate explanation about why nicotine dependence and major depression go together, Dr. Fu continued. Dr. Fu also found that the genes that increased a persons risk of developing major depression and nicotine addiction are found in those who have conduct disorder, such as stealing, vandalizing, running away from home and fighting. These people are likely to become addicted to other drugs and behave impulsively.

Our data showed that both major depression and nicotine dependence were highly genetically correlated with conduct disorder, Dr. Fu said.

The research als o helps to explain why smoking seems to run in some families, Dr. Fu said. Maybe Dad and Mom have a certain personality, which is why they may be more likely to smoke or to be depressed. That personality trait may be based in their genes, he said.

The research points geneticists in a new direction to determine the influences of a personality trait. In addition, clinicians could use the findings to identify those who are at risk of developing major depression or nicotine addiction.

When they see people with a history of conduct disorder, they may be able to predict those people who could develop major depression or nicotine dependence, Dr. Fu added.

The research appeared in the June issue of Twin Research and Human Genetics.


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