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The Australian Genetics of Depression Study: Study Description and Sample Characteristics

By Enda M. Byrne, Katherine M Kirk, Sarah E Medland, John McGrath, Richard Parker, Simone Cross, Lenore Sullivan, Dixie J Statham, Douglas F. Levinson, Julio Licinio, Naomi R. Wray, Ian B Hickie, Nicholas G Martin

Posted 03 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/626762

Objectives Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder and the largest contributor to global disability. The Australian Genetics of Depression study was established to recruit a large cohort of individuals who have been diagnosed with depression, and to investigate genetic and environmental risk factors for depression and response to commonly prescribed antidepressants. This paper describes the recruitment and characteristics of the sample. Methods Participants completed an online questionnaire that consisted of a compulsory module that assessed self-reported psychiatric history, clinical depression using the Composite Interview Diagnostic Interview Short Form, and experiences of using commonly prescribed antidepressants. Further voluntary modules assessed a wide range of traits of relevance to psychopathology. Participants who reported they were willing to provide a DNA sample were sent a saliva kit in the mail. Results A total of 20,689 participants, 75% of whom were female, enrolled in the study. The average age of participants was 43 years ± 15 years. 15,807 participants (76% of the participant group) returned saliva kits. The overwhelming majority of participants reported being given a diagnosis of depression by a medical practitioner and 88% met the criteria for a depressive episode. Rates of comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders were high. Two-thirds of the sample reported having taken more than one type of antidepressant during treatment for their depression. Conclusions This study was effective in recruiting a large community sample of people with a history of clinical depression, highlighting the willingness of Australians to engage with medical research. A combination of recruitment through health records and media as well as use of an online questionnaire made it feasible to recruit the large sample needed for investigating the genetics of common diseases. It will be a valuable resource for investigating risk factors for depression, treatment response to antidepressants and susceptibility to side effects.

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