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World’s largest study of anxiety and depression seeks to understand the genetic links to mental health issues

25 February 2019

World’s largest study of anxiety and depression seeks to understand the genetic links to mental health issues
GLAD Study

Ulster University today launched the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study in Northern Ireland.

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health disorders worldwide. In the UK, 1 in 3 people will experience significant symptoms during their lifetime. Research has consistently shown that environmental factors are important in understanding why these conditions develop and that 30-40% of the risk for developing both depression and anxiety is genetic. GLAD will study both environmental and genetic links to anxiety and depression to find effective treatments and improve the lives of people experiencing these disorders.

Led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Mental Health BioResource and researchers at King’s College London, GLAD is a UK-wide project set up in partnership with Cardiff University, the University of Edinburgh, and Ulster University  to explore risk factors for anxiety and/or depression. The project aims to collect saliva samples and questionnaires from 40,000 people across the UK. To date, over 20,000 people in England have consented to join GLAD.

Ulster University is inviting people in Northern Ireland, experiencing depression or anxiety, to take part in the study. The aim is to make participation as easy as possible, as researchers are aware that these conditions can at times make participation difficult.

Leading GLAD in Northern Ireland, Professor Cherie Armour, Director of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences and Associate Dean Research & Impact in the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at Ulster University commented:

“This UK-wide study into the genetic links to anxiety and depression has the potential to truly transform our understanding and treatment of two common mental health conditions. Mental health is a key research priority at Ulster University; through our Institute of Mental Health Sciences we are taking a holistic approach to mental health research, exploring all aspects from gene to gym.

“The GLAD project is the world’s largest ever study on anxiety and depression and the collection of this data source, essentially ‘big data’ from 40,000 people, will help us discover how genes and environment act together resulting in these conditions as well as helping us to develop and provide evidence based, effective treatment options for those experiencing them.”

Chief Executive of Action Mental Health, David Babington said:

“Action Mental Health is delighted to be supporting this UK-wide study into anxiety and depression; through the new Mental Health Sciences Institute we recognise that Ulster University has brought a keen focus on the area of mental health and their leadership here in NI with this study is to be welcomed.

Northern Ireland suffers a 25% higher overall prevalence of mental illness than England – 1 in 5 adults here has a mental health condition at any one time - and any study which can help identify the reasons why people here are more susceptible to mental illness is to be applauded. Hopefully this study can shine a light on how anxiety and depression develop and how people might recover.”

Here in Northern Ireland, Ulster University Chancellor James Nesbitt, actress/singer Bronagh Gallagher and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes have pledged their support for the GLAD study. The study has also launched in England, Scotland and Wales and has been endorsed by a number of high profile people including Gaby Logan and Alastair Campbell.

GLAD is the flagship study of the new Northern Ireland Complex Disease Bioresource (NI-CDB) also launched today. The new NI-CDB will complement and enhance the world-leading biopsychosocial research of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences and the BioMedical Sciences Research Institute at Ulster University allowing for the recruitment and sampling of patients with complex disease states.

This study and Bio resource is supported by HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency [COM/5516/18].

To take part in the study please visit: www.gladstudy.org.uk/ni


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