King’s launches major new study into
Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) 

Researchers at King’s are aiming to recruit 40,000 people in England who have been diagnosed with anxiety and, or, depression to take part in future research. The Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression study (GLAD) is the first of its kind in the UK and has ambitions to be the largest ever undertaken.

Led by psychiatric geneticist Dr Gerome Breen with Professor of Developmental Behavioural Genetics, Thalia Eley, the online study is open to anyone over the age of 16 who has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety, depression or both. Participants in the study provide details of their experience online and a postal DNA sample via their saliva, which will then be stored as part of the National Institute for Health Research BioResource for Mental Health. As well as using the platform to allow researchers to better access these participants, they will also be able to use that initial data to understand more about the genetic influences on depression and anxiety.

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common, affecting between a quarter and one third of the population at some point in their lives. Genetic studies like this one are making unprecedented progress and are incorporating not just genetic but also environmental and social risk factors. These studies seek to develop knowledge that will allow more effective selection of existing treatments for anxiety and depression and the design of new treatments.

Professor Eley explains that sample size is key for these kinds of studies:

‘For a long period in genetics, even when we had new methods and technology, we still weren’t really finding anything out. We’ve now discovered that when you get to a sample size of around 40,000, you start to see things.’

What’s particularly exciting about the GLAD study is the fact that it will create a substantial and comprehensive collection of data that can be used for other research purposes in the future. Future studies will be able to access participants and information about their DNA for further study. This intelligence can also inform public health strategy, such as targeting groups who are not receiving treatment.

‘I'm really interested in using genetics to try to help people get the right treatment first time around,’ says Professor Eley.

The study is for everyone, but in particular, they are hoping to attract younger adults (i.e. those below 25 years) as the existing UK Biobank includes older adults. They’re interested in hearing from groups who have been underrepresented in research too, particularly males, those of non-binary gender and people in ethnic minorities. They’d also like to see people in high-stress professions such the police and fire service enrol.

You can learn more about the study including information on how to enrol at GLADstudy.org.uk.

Follow the study on Twitter @GLADStudy.