According to a study, suicide is ingrained in some people’s genes.
Scientists have found that four genetic variations are more common in military veterans who have committed suicide or had suicidal thoughts.
The genes have previously been linked to psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia.
The researchers say that while these genes likely increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, they don’t “predestine anyone for trouble” in the future.
In a study of more than 600,000 American veterans, researchers identified four genes that were more prevalent in people with suicidal thoughts. The four genes, ESR1, DRD2, DCC and TRAF3, have been linked to mental health problems like depression, PTSD and mood disorders in the past (file image)
In 2020, the year for which the data is most recent, 45,979 Americans died by suicide. Military veterans are most at risk, with 6,146 deaths that year.
Suicide is the second-leading killer of American men under 45, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rates among women have also increased by 50% in recent years, with experts warning that rising stress levels and self-esteem issues brought on by social media may play a role.
Conditions such as depression, PTSD, and psychosis are most likely to lead to a person’s suicide.
Researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, examined blood samples from a database of 630,000 veterans.
The samples were sequenced to build a genetic profile of each participant, which was then compared to their medical records.
Genes play a role in every facet of a person’s life, from how they look to how their body and brain function.
Each person has more than 20,000 pairs of genes. They receive one trait from their father and one from their mother to form each pair in the womb.
The effects that different genes can have on a person’s brain, nervous system, and general bodily functions can be responsible for significant changes in mental health.
There were 121,211 recorded cases of suicidal thoughts or attempts among the participants.
The researchers found that four genes were more prevalent in suicidal people – ESR1, DRD2, DCC and TRAF3.
This implies that there is a genetic link between suicidal behavior and other mental health problems.
ESR1 is an estrogen receptor that has previously been linked to PTSD and depression. These are proteins in the cell that are activated by estrogen.
The researchers also note that estrogen, and the way men and women process the hormone differently, is at the root of why men are more likely to die by suicide than women.
In America, men are almost four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
The second gene, DRD2, is a dopamine receptor linked to feelings of pleasure and happiness. It has previously been linked to schizophrenia, mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and substance abuse.
DCC, which is expressed in brain tissue throughout life, has been linked to multiple psychiatric disorders and is elevated in the brains of people who die by suicide.
Finally, TRAF3 is associated with antisocial behavior, substance use, and ADHD. The drug lithium – a type of drug known as a mood stabilizer – modulates the expression of TRAF3 and several other inflammatory genes.
Dr Nathan Kimbrel, co-lead author of the study and associate professor at Duke, said: “While genes represent a small amount of risk compared to other factors, we need to better understand the biological pathways that underlie -tend a person’s risk of engaging in suicidal activities. behaviour.’
The researchers found no link between certain ethnicities or ancestries that put a person at an increased risk of dying by suicide.
The findings were published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal.
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WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Although it’s normal to feel down once in a while, people with depression can feel unhappy constantly for weeks or months.
Depression can affect anyone at any age and is quite common – around one in ten people are likely to experience it at some point in their life.
Depression is a real health problem that people can’t just ignore or “get out of it”.
Symptoms and effects vary, but may include feeling constantly upset or hopeless, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy.
It can also cause physical symptoms such as sleep problems, fatigue, poor appetite or low libido, and even physical pain.
In extreme cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Traumatic events can trigger it, and people with a family history may be more at risk.
It’s important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know has depression, as it can be managed with lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication.
Source: NHS Choice