Largest ever study of depression and anxiety now recruiting individuals from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource launched the largest ever single study of depression and anxiety in September 2018, recruiting in England, and are now opening the study in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. By recruiting at least 40,000 people who have experienced either depression or anxiety at some point in their life, the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) study will make important strides towards better understanding of these disorders and improving the lives of future patients. GLAD will provide a ‘bank’ of potential participants for future studies on the genetic aspects of these two conditions and reduce the time-consuming process of recruiting patients for research.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the UK; 1 in 3 people will experience symptoms during their lifetime. Access to psychological therapies and drug treatments such as anti-depressants is increasing, but only half of people respond well to existing treatment options. For the thousands who remain unwell, these conditions may worsen over time and can lead to relationship and employment problems, a poor quality of life and even suicide. As such, researchers urgently need more people to take part in mental health research studies.

Research has shown 30-40% of the risk for both depression and anxiety is genetic and 60-70% due to environmental factors. Only by having a large, diverse group of people available for future studies will researchers be able to determine how genetic and environmental triggers interact to cause anxiety and depression and how to develop more effective treatments.

Geneticist and study co-lead, Dr Gerome Breen, who leads the BioResource theme at the NIHR Maudsley BRC, comments: “It’s a really exciting time to become involved in mental health research, particularly genetic research which has made incredible strides in recent years – we have so far identified 110 genetic links for depression and anxiety. Opening our study to the rest of the UK will be key to us achieving our goal of recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research. The GLAD study will allow researchers to solve the big unanswered questions, address how genes and environment act together and help develop new treatment options.”

Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at the charity MQ, which advocates for more research into mental health conditions, is supporting the GLAD Study. She comments: “Only through further research into the root causes of anxiety and depression can we hope to achieve the same breakthroughs that have been seen with other physical conditions. Our dream is a world where people can achieve full control of their mental health conditions, and where treatments are personalised to work for them. We encourage anyone living with depression or anxiety who shares this vision to enrol.”

The GLAD Study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a collaboration between the NIHR BioResource and King’s College London, has been designed to be particularly accessible, with a view to motivating more people to take part in mental health research. Professor Chérie Armour from Ulster University, Professor Andrew McIntosh from University of Edinburgh, Professor Daniel Smith from University of Glasgow, and Professor Ian Jones from Cardiff University are collaborating with the GLAD Study as co-investigators on the project to begin recruiting from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Research psychologist and study co-lead Professor Thalia Eley, IoPPN and NIHR Maudsley BRC, comments: “The GLAD Study is straightforward. We’re asking those who have experienced clinical anxiety or depression to complete a short survey and provide a DNA sample (from saliva). We want to hear from all different backgrounds, cultures, ethnic groups and genders, and we are especially keen to hear from young adults. By including people from all parts of the population what we learn will be relevant for everyone. This is a unique opportunity to participate in pioneering medical science – we hope the public back the study and we can reach our target of 40,000 people.”

The GLAD study is open to anyone in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, aged 16 or over, who has experienced clinical anxiety and/or depression. Taking part involves just two simple steps:

  1. Register at and complete a 30 minute online questionnaire
  2. Complete and return a DNA saliva sample test, which is sent with instructions and a free return envelope

Signing up to the GLAD study will also involve allowing access to your medical records, providing important clinical data to link with other information and give a full picture of each individual. This data will be held securely (in line with new data regulations) and will only be accessed by a limited number of approved researchers. People who take part will receive updates twice-a-year about the progress of the research and online access to information on upcoming studies.

Tags: BioResource - Precision psychiatry - Affective Disorders and Interface with Medicine -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 25 Feb 2019, 10:12 AM

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