A test for common genetic and environmental vulnerability to depression and diabetes

Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Hong Xian, Patrick J. Lustman, Carol E. Franz, Jeanne McCaffery, Michael J. Lyons, Kristen C. Jacobson, William S. Kremen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Molecular genetic research has provided some evidence for the association between depression and metabolic disorders. We sought to determine if molecular findings are reflected in twin analyses testing if common genetic and environmental risk factors contribute to the co-occurrence of diabetes and depression. Data to derive depression and diabetes were collected from 1,237 male-male twins who participated in the 2005 Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA). The 1,237 twins were comprised of 347 MZ pairs, 3 MZ singletons, 267 DZ pairs and 6 unpaired twins. Depression was defined as a score below 46 on the Short Form-36 mental component summary score. Diabetes was defined by self report, use of anti-diabetic medications and insulin. Twin models were fit to estimate the correlation of genetic and environmental contributions to depression and diabetes. Consistent with other studies these data support the association between depression and diabetes (OR = 1.7; 95%CI: 1.1-2.7). Genetic vulnerability accounted for 50% (95%CI: 32%-65%) of the variance in risk for depression and 69% (95%CI: 52%-81%) of the variance in risk for diabetes. The genetic correlation between depression and diabetes was r = 0.19 (95%CI: 0-0.46) and the non-shared environmental correlation was r = 0.09 (95% CI: 0-0.45). Overall there is little evidence that common genetic and environmental factors account for the co-occurrence of depression and diabetes in middle aged men. Further research in female twins and larger cohorts is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-172
Number of pages4
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Behavior genetics
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Twins
  • Veterans


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