Associations between socioeconomic factors and depression in Sri Lanka: The role of gene-environment interplay

Isabella Badini, Kaushayla Jayaweera, Gayani Pannala, Anushka Adikari, Sisira Siribaddana, Athula Sumathipala, Tom A. McAdams, Lisa Harber-Aschan, Matthew Hotopf, Fruhling Rijsdijk, Helena Zavos

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Background: Low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for depression. The nature and magnitude of associations can differ cross-culturally and is influenced by a range of contextual factors. We examined the aetiology of socioeconomic indicators and depression symptoms and investigated whether socioeconomic indicators moderate genetic and environmental influences on depression symptoms in a Sri Lankan population. Methods: Data were from a population-based sample of twins (N = 2934) and singletons (N = 1035) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Standard of living, educational attainment, and financial strain were used to index socioeconomic status. Depression symptoms were assessed using the Revised Beck Depression Inventory. Structural equation modelling explored genetic and environmental influences on socioeconomic indicators and depression symptoms and moderation of aetiological influences on depression symptoms by socioeconomic status. Results: Depression symptoms were associated with lower standard of living, lower educational attainment, and financial strain. Sex differences were evident in the aetiology of standard of living, with a small contribution of genetic influences in females. Educational attainment was moderately heritable in both males and females. Total variance in depression was greater among less socioeconomically advantaged individuals. Modest evidence of moderation of the aetiology of depression by standard of living and education was observed. Limitations: While the sample is representative of individuals living in Colombo District, it may not be representative of different regions of Sri Lanka. Conclusions: The aetiology of depression varies across socioeconomic contexts, suggesting a potential mechanism through which socioeconomic disadvantage increases the risk for depression in Sri Lanka. Findings have implications for cross-cultural investigations of the role of socioeconomic factors in depression and for identifying targets for social interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • Depression
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Sri Lanka
  • Twin studies


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