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Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Aug 19. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0486-1. [Epub ahead of print]

Association between major depressive disorder and multiple disease outcomes: a phenome-wide Mendelian randomisation study in the UK Biobank.

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Australian Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, Adelaide, Australia.
Department of Pharmacology, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, Australia.
Australian Centre for Precision Health, University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, Adelaide, Australia.
Population, Policy and Practice, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, UK.
South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide, Australia.


Depression affects all aspects of an individual's life but evidence relating to the causal effects on health is limited. We used information from 337,536 UK Biobank participants and performed hypothesis-free phenome-wide association analyses between major depressive disorder (MDD) genetic risk score (GRS) and 925 disease outcomes. GRS-disease outcome associations passing the multiple-testing corrected significance threshold (P < 1.9 × 10-3) were followed by Mendelian randomisation (MR) analyses to test for causality. MDD GRS was associated with 22 distinct diseases in the phenome-wide discovery stage, with the strongest signal observed for MDD diagnosis and related co-morbidities including anxiety and sleep disorders. In inverse-variance weighted MR analyses, MDD was associated with several inflammatory and haemorrhagic gastrointestinal diseases, including oesophagitis (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.18-1.48), non-infectious gastroenteritis (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.06-1.48), gastrointestinal haemorrhage (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.11-1.43) and intestinal E.coli infections (OR 3.24, 95% CI 1.74-6.02). Signals were also observed for symptoms/disorders of the urinary system (OR 1.36, 95% CI 1.19-1.56), asthma (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.06-1.44), and painful respiration (OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.14-1.44). MDD was associated with disorders of lipid metabolism (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.12-1.34) and ischaemic heart disease (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.15-1.47). Sensitivity analyses excluding pleiotropic variants provided consistent associations. Our study indicates a causal link between MDD and a broad range of diseases, suggesting a notable burden of co-morbidity. Early detection and management of MDD is important, and treatment strategies should be selected to also minimise the risk of related co-morbidities.


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