Would you say the causes of depression are mostly genetic, societal or environmental?

Answered by: Steven Roose

It appears that in most cases there is a combination of factors at work. Genetic vulnerability is often quite important, but genetics actually operate by creating a vulnerability that is expressed if other social or environmental triggers occur.

In a unique and fascinating study, the genetic vulnerability to depression was determined in a group of New Zealand women who were followed over 20 years.

In women who were genetically vulnerable, depression was expressed when environmental stress, such as abuse, occurred. However, if a woman was not genetically vulnerable to depression, even in the face of an environmental stress, depression did not develop.

The interaction between genes and environments not only explains vulnerability to depression, but also illuminates the phenomenon of resilience, that is, when people seem to emerge intact despite seemingly horrific experiences.

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Steven Roose, M.D.
Research Psychiatrist 

Steven P. Roose, M.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University and Director of the Neuropsychiatry Research Clinic at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Roose did his undergraduate work at Harvard University and attended medical school at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. After medical internship, Dr. Roose completed his psychiatric residency at Columbia Presbyterian – New York State Psychiatric Institute and subsequently an NIMH-sponsored research fellowship in affective disorders.
Dr. Roose’s research has focused on ...
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