The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource and King’s College London are partnering with institutions around the UK to call for people from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England with depression or anxiety to join the online Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study.
Leading mental health research charity MQ believes research into genetic and environmental risks could lead to breakthroughs in how depression and anxiety are treated, helping future generations susceptible to the conditions
Researchers at King’s College London launched the largest ever single study of depression and anxiety in September 2018, recruiting in England, and are now opening the study in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
By recruiting at least 40,000 people who have experienced either depression or anxiety at some point in their life, the Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) study will make important strides towards better understanding of these disorders and improving the lives of future patients.
GLAD will provide a ‘bank’ of potential participants for future studies on the genetic aspects of these two conditions and reduce the time-consuming process of recruiting patients for research.
Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the UK; 1 in 3 people will experience symptoms during their lifetime.
Access to psychological therapies and drug treatments such as anti-depressants is increasing, but only half of people respond well to existing treatment options.
For the thousands who remain unwell, these conditions may worsen over time and can lead to relationship and employment problems, a poor quality of life and even suicide. As such, researchers urgently need more people to take part in mental health research studies.
Research has shown 30-40 per cent of the risk for both depression and anxiety is genetic and 60-70 per cent due to environmental factors. Only by having a large, diverse group of people available for future studies will researchers be able to determine how genetic and environmental triggers interact to cause anxiety and depression and how to develop more effective treatments.
Geneticist and study co-lead, Dr Gerome Breen, from King’s College London, said: “It’s a really exciting time to become involved in mental health research, particularly genetic research which has made incredible strides in recent years – we have so far identified 110 genetic links for depression and anxiety.
“Opening our study to the rest of the UK will be key to us achieving our goal of recruiting 40,000 volunteers willing to be re-contacted for research. The GLAD study will allow researchers to solve the big unanswered questions, address how genes and environment act together and help develop new treatment options.”
Professor Daniel Smith, co-leading the GLAD Study in Scotland, said: “As a psychiatrist with a clinical and research interest in the causes of depression and anxiety, I am delighted to support the GLAD study recruitment in Scotland.
“This is an ambitious and exciting collaboration by researchers from across the UK, and has real potential to deliver new insights into the genetic and environmental causes of the two most common mental health problems globally.
“If you have ever had depression or anxiety then please sign up today via the GLAD website and play your part.”
The GLAD Study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a collaboration between the NIHR BioResource and King’s College London, has been designed to be particularly accessible, with a view to motivating more people to take part in mental health research.
Professor Chérie Armour from Ulster University, Professor Andrew McIntosh from University of Edinburgh, Professor Daniel Smith from University of Glasgow, and Professor Ian Jones from Cardiff University are collaborating with the GLAD Study as co-investigators on the project to begin recruiting from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The GLAD lead for Scotland, Professor Andrew McIntosh, Chair of the Generation Scotland Expert Working Group for Psychiatric Disorders, said: “Depression and anxiety are very common in Scotland and developing better treatments for these conditions through research should be our highest priority.
“I hope that, through the GLAD Study, we will learn much more about the causes of anxiety and depression and why some people respond to treatments better than others. I hope anyone living with anxiety or depression will enrol in GLAD to help us secure a brighter future for the millions of people affected throughout the world.”
Dr Sophie Dix, director of research at the charity MQ, which advocates for more research into mental health conditions, is supporting the GLAD Study. She said: “Only through further research into the root causes of anxiety and depression can we hope to achieve the same breakthroughs that have been seen with other physical conditions.
“Our dream is a world where people can achieve full control of their mental health conditions, and where treatments are personalised to work for them. We encourage anyone living with depression or anxiety who shares this vision to enrol.”
The GLAD study is open to anyone in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, aged 16 or over, who has experienced clinical anxiety and/or depression.
Taking part involves just two simple steps:
1. Register at www.GLADStudy.org.uk and complete a 30 minute online questionnaire
2. Complete and return a DNA saliva sample test, which is sent with instructions and a free return envelope
Signing up to the GLAD study will also involve allowing access to your medical records, providing important clinical data to link with other information and give a full picture of each individual. This data will be held securely (in line with new data regulations) and will only be accessed by a limited number of approved researchers.
People who take part will receive updates twice-a-year about the progress of the research and online access to information on upcoming studies.