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OBJECTIVE: To investigate the extent to which shared genetic factors can explain the clustering of depression among individuals with lower socioeconomic status, and to examine if neuroticism or intelligence are involved in these pathways. METHODS: In total 2,383 participants (1,028 men and 1,355 women) of the Erasmus Rucphen Family Study were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-D). Socioeconomic status was assessed as the highest level of education obtained. The role of shared genetic factors was quantified by estimating genetic correlations (rhoG) between symptoms of depression and education level, with and without adjustment for premorbid intelligence and neuroticism scores. RESULTS: Higher level of education was associated with lower depression scores (partial correlation coefficient -0.09 for CES-D and -0.17 for HADS-D). Significant genetic correlations were found between education and both CES-D (rhoG = -0.65) and HADS-D (rhoG = -0.50). The genetic correlations remained statistically significant after adjusting for premorbid intelligence and neuroticism scores. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that shared genetic factors play a role in the co-occurrence of lower socioeconomic status and symptoms of depression, which suggest that genetic factors play a role in health inequalities. Further research is needed to investigate the validity, causality and generalizability of our results.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Cluster Analysis, Depression, Educational Status, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Social Class