Early risers may be genetically less prone to depressive symptoms – new scientist

If you are genetically more active in the morning than at night, you may be less likely to experience symptoms of depression. These are symptoms such as low energy or difficulty making decisions.

Researchers have previously found that night owls are more at risk of developing symptoms of depression than those who wake up early. But it’s unclear whether staying up late increases the risk of developing such symptoms or whether the symptoms turn people into night owls.

To find out, biological psychologists did the research Anne Land Joy and his colleagues at VU University Amsterdam collected genetic data from more than 14,000 people in the Netherlands. The average age of the participants was 43 years and 63 percent were female.

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In addition to providing genetic data, participants answered questions about their lifestyle and how strongly they felt about 14 potential symptoms of depression, such as “I don’t have much energy” and “I have trouble making decisions.” None of the participants had a clinical diagnosis of depression.

Morning person score

The researchers looked for about 350 genetic variants in the participants’ genomes that have previously been linked to how active people feel in the morning compared to the evening. Based on that, they calculated a morning person score for each person. They found that morning people who were high in genes had less difficulty making decisions, were less productive, and had less energy.

“This suggests that a higher morning person score actually reduces the risk of depressive symptoms because the relationship cannot be reversed.” Having depressive symptoms doesn’t change the genetic variations you have,” says Landvreugd.

However, other environmental factors such as alcohol or smoking habits may also explain the link. This can be done, for example, by disrupting sleep and changing people’s brain chemistry, says Landvreugd.

Changing the mode of operation

Understanding the link between night owls and depressive symptoms, whether genetics or environmental factors cause them, could help people cope with their negative feelings, Landvreugd says. “If morning activity reduces the risk of depressive symptoms, finding ways to change your activity pattern can help treat or prevent it,” she says.

Landvreugd says further research is needed to determine how the findings apply to different ethnic groups, since the participants were primarily of European descent.

“The findings are consistent with other research showing a link between circadian rhythms and mental health,” says the biochemist. Amy Ferguson from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. According to Ferguson, researchers suggest that changing people’s daily rhythms through light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can be used as a treatment for many mental health problems.

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