Is Depression Genetic? Main Causes and Other Factors

Although a person’s genetics may point to a potential risk for depression, they cannot always predict whether they would experience this mental health illness.

There is no single cause of major depressive disorder (MDD), and the connection between genetics, depression, and other recognized variables is even more complicated.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health diseases, affecting around 350 million people, according to recent studies. Although there’s evidence that depression runs in families, it’s unclear how much risk is determined by genes alone.

People with a higher hereditary risk may be able to adopt protective measures, such as creating a healthy home environment, getting enough sleep, and eating nourishing meals.

Depression and Genetic factors

According to some research, compared to the general population, someone who has a first-degree family (a parent, sibling, or child) who has been diagnosed with MDD may be three times more likely to develop the illness themselves. Compared to the average 10% likelihood in the general population, they have around a 30% chance of developing it.

Depression has many causes and many treatments. Attributing it solely to a chemical imbalance in the brain does people a disservice. It leads them to doubt the value of therapy and the efficacy of behavior change. We all need meaning, control, connection, and hope in our lives.

The complex interplay of many factors, not just specific genes, determines heredity. Researchers frequently explore for variations in genes while researching mental health concerns. Based on their impact on the gene, if any, these modifications are categorized.

Some diseases, like sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, are brought on by a single gene. However, unlike other widespread hereditary disorders like diabetes, mental health concerns are not brought on by a single gene. Instead, a complex interplay between genes, biological processes, and environmental causes affects depression.

So, despite the fact that MDD exists in families, it doesn’t just pass down directly and immediately from your parents. Certain gene combinations from your parents may increase your risk of contracting the disease. Your odds can also be impacted by additional variables like trauma, substance abuse, and family environment.

Depression and Environmental Factors

Even for those with a family history of MDD, depressive episodes are not always a given. Despite a high hereditary association, environmental factors still account for 60% of the chance of contracting it.

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Among other things, there are many environmental factors that can contribute to depression, such as a family where the parents were extremely depressed, severe stressful events, chronic tension, history of violence or neglect, and maladaptive coping. Add trauma, a loved one’s passing, social isolation, serious physical illness, and other significant life events to the list.

According to the study, a high-quality family environment excludes divorce and deaths of either parent before the child reaches the age of 15. Researchers have found that adoptive parents with high educational attainment, steady employment, and low levels of psychiatric drug or substance use are better able to provide a stable home environment.

There are many kinds of families. Any type of house or family structure that feels right for you and your loved ones can be considered a healthy, high-quality family setting.

Other Contributing Factors

MDD has various factors associated with it.  (Image via Pexels/Karolina Grabowska)
MDD has various factors associated with it. (Image via Pexels/Karolina Grabowska)

Like other psychiatric diseases, MDD is a complicated disorder that can be triggered or exacerbated by other elements, such as stress, dietary habits, and other health issues.

All mental health concerns are based on many contributing factors rather than just one. In addition to genes, depression is connected to:

Physiological factors

  • Alterations in the brain’s neurotransmitters
  • Chemical mood regulators
  • Older age and loneliness
  • Other medical disorders
  • Disturbed sleep

Situational factors

Breakup and death are all disturbing factors.  (Image via Pexels/Ike Louie)
Breakup and death are all disturbing factors. (Image via Pexels/Ike Louie)
  • Nutrition
  • Living in an under-resourced community
  • Substance use
  • Severe life stress
  • Childhood trauma
  • Childhood emotional and physical neglect
  • Losing a parent in early life

You’re not alone if you’re struggling with MDD. It’s one of the most prevalent mental health diseases affecting millions worldwide. No matter where you are on your journey to mental wellness, there are many resources you can use to feel better.

Even though it might take some time to find what works for you, it’s possible to feel better while dealing with MDD. Although the causes can differ from person to person, treatment and therapy are available. Through therapy, you will be able to identify specific sources of your MDD, and take action to enhance your well-being.


Together, genetic and environmental research can help us better understand depression, identify risk factors, and develop effective treatments.

However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that MDD can strike anyone, including those who are not genetically predisposed to the condition or who are not vulnerable to identified risk factors.

To prevent the disease from going untreated, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of depression in both yourself and others. By recognizing the causes, signs, and symptoms of depression comes great power.


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