Phenotypically independent profiles relevant to mental health are genetically correlated

D. Roelfs*, D. Alnaes, O. Frei, D. van der Meer, O.B. Smeland, O.A. Andreassen, L.T. Westlye, T. Kaufmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and family-based studies have revealed partly overlapping genetic architectures between various psychiatric disorders. Given clinical overlap between disorders, our knowledge of the genetic architectures underlying specific symptom profiles and risk factors is limited. Here, we aimed to derive distinct profiles relevant to mental health in healthy individuals and to study how these genetically relate to each other and to common psychiatric disorders. Using independent component analysis, we decomposed self-report mental health questionnaires from 136,678 healthy individuals of the UK Biobank, excluding data from individuals with a diagnosed neurological or psychiatric disorder, into 13 distinct profiles relevant to mental health, capturing different symptoms as well as social and risk factors underlying reduced mental health. Utilizing genotypes from 117,611 of those individuals with White British ancestry, we performed GWAS for each mental health profile and assessed genetic correlations between these profiles, and between the profiles and common psychiatric disorders and cognitive traits. We found that mental health profiles were genetically correlated with a wide range of psychiatric disorders and cognitive traits, with strongest effects typically observed between a given mental health profile and a disorder for which the profile is common (e.g. depression symptoms and major depressive disorder, or psychosis and schizophrenia). Strikingly, although the profiles were phenotypically uncorrelated, many of them were genetically correlated with each other. This study provides evidence that statistically independent mental health profiles partly share genetic underpinnings and show genetic overlap with psychiatric disorders, suggesting that shared genetics across psychiatric disorders cannot be exclusively attributed to the known overlapping symptomatology between the disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number202
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021




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