In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, researchers conducted a cohort study to explore the correlations between familial major depression (MD) history and risk of MD, including correlation with age, gender, type of kinship, and age of the affected family member.

This cohort study included all Danish citizens born from 1960 to 2003 with known parental identity followed up from their 15th birthday until time of MD, censoring, or December 31, 2018. Analysis was conducted between April 2022 and December 2022.

Exposures were family members with first-time MD using International Classification of Diseases, Eighth Revision codes 296.09, 296.29, 298.09, and 300.49 or 10th Revision codes F32.0-F33.9, family members’ age at MD onset, and individuals’ age at exposure to family MD.

The researchers indicated that multivariable Poisson regression was utilized to estimate the incidence rate ratio (IRR) with 95% CI of first-time MD.

The study was comprised of 2,903,430 individuals. The results revealed that with regard to men, exposure to maternal, paternal, or full sibling MD was linked with a two-times higher risk of MD (IRR = 2.10, IRR, 2.04; IRR, 2.08), respectively, and the associated risk augmented with the number of affected family members. The researchers also noted that the pattern was comparable for women.

Additionally, for men, family members’ age at MD onset was not associated with MD. For women, maternal MD onset at age 69 years or younger was associated with higher IRRs of MD reported as aged <40 years: IRR, 1.64; aged 40 to 49 years: IRR, 1.62; aged 50 to 59 years: IRR, 1.56; and aged 60 to 69 years: IRR, 1.67 compared with women with maternal MD onset at age 70 years or older.

For men, exposure to maternal MD younger than age 30 years aged <1 year: IRR, 1.95; aged 1 to <12 years: IRR, 2.31; aged 12 to <19 years: IRR, 2.18; aged 19 to <30 years: IRR, 1.42 was linked with augmented IRRs, while exposure to maternal MD at age 30 years or older was related with a lower IRR (0.77). Across type of kinships and for women, the findings were comparable.

The results indicated that factors such as maternal, paternal, full sibling, or half-sibling with a history of MD were associated with twofold greater risks of developing MD in men and women. The risk expanded with the number of affected family members. Also, individuals exposed when aged 30 years or older had a strikingly lower risk.

The authors concluded, “In this study, risk of MD was associated with increased numbers of affected family members but did not vary by gender or type of kinship. Exposure to family MD during childhood and adolescence was associated with increased risk.”

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