Physical activity mitigates the risk for depression, even in the context of genetic vulnerability, according to a study published online this week in Depression & Anxiety has assured

Karmel W. Choi, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues integrated genomic data from 7,968 individuals with electronic health records and lifestyle survey responses.

The authors sought to examine the correlation between physical activity and the risk for incident depression in the context of genetic vulnerability. Large-scale genome-wide association results for major depression were used to derive polygenic risk scores.

The researchers found that polygenic risk correlated with increased odds of incident depression; even after adjustment for body mass index, employment status, educational attainment, and prior depression, physical activity had a protective effect of similar, but opposite, magnitude.

 Across all levels of genetic vulnerability, higher levels of physical activity correlated with reduced odds of incident depression, even among individuals at highest polygenic risk.

“The results of this study have potential to aid primary care and mental health providers in combating these perceptions by providing empirical evidence that physical activity can alter real-world depression risk even among individuals at high genetic vulnerability, and can therefore guide counselling and first-line recommendations for individuals who have a substantial family history of depression or who may, in the future, receive more detailed information about their genomic risk,” the authors concluded.


REFERENCE: Choi et al: Physical activity offsets genetic risk for incident depression assessed via electronic health records in a biobank cohort study;