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Psychol Med. 1992 Aug;22(3):617-22.

Bulimia nervosa and major depression: a study of common genetic and environmental factors.

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Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.


A genetic analysis of the co-occurrence of bulimia and major depression (MD) was performed on 1033 female twin pairs obtained from a population based register. Personal interviews were conducted and clinical diagnoses made according to DSM-III-R criteria. Additive genes, but not family environment, are found to play an important aetiological role in both bulimia and MD. The genetic liabilities of the two disorders are correlated 0.456. While unique environmental factors account for around half of the variation in liability to both bulimia and MD, these risk factors appear to be unrelated, i.e., each disorder has its own set of unique environmental risk factors. Thus, the genetic liability of bulimia and MD is neither highly specific nor entirely non-specific. There is some genetic correlation between the two disorders as well as some genetic and environmental risk factors unique to each disorder. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

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