A multivariate genetic analysis of anxiety sensitivity, environmental sensitivity and reported life events in adolescents

Alicia Peel, Olakunle Ayokunmi Oginni, Elham Assary, Georgina Krebs, Celestine Lockhart, Tom McGregor, Elisavet Palaiologou, Angelica Ronald, Andrea Danese, Thalia Eley Grant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background

Despite being considered a measure of environmental risk, reported life events are partly heritable. One mechanism that may contribute to this heritability is genetic influences on sensitivity, relating to how individuals process and interpret internal and external signals. The aim of this study was to explore the genetic and environmental overlap between self-reported life events and measures of sensitivity.

Methods

At age 17, 2,939 individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) completed measures of anxiety sensitivity (Children's Anxiety Sensitivity Index), environmental sensitivity (Highly Sensitive Child Scale) and reported their experience of 20 recent life events. Using multivariate Cholesky decomposition models, we investigated the shared genetic and environmental influences on the associations between these measures of sensitivity and the number of reported life events, as well as both negative and positive ratings of life events.

Results

The majority of the associations between anxiety sensitivity, environmental sensitivity and reported life events were explained by shared genetic influences (60%–75%), with the remainder explained by nonshared environmental influences (25%–40%). Environmental sensitivity showed comparable genetic correlations with both negative and positive ratings of life events (rA = .21 and .15), anxiety sensitivity only showed a significant genetic correlation with negative ratings of life events (rA = .33). Approximately 10% of the genetic influences on reported life events were accounted for by influences shared with anxiety sensitivity and environmental sensitivity.

Conclusion

Differences in how individuals process the contextual aspects of the environment or interpret their own physical and emotional response to environmental stimuli may be one mechanism through which genetic liability influences the subjective experience of life events.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2022

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