The aetiological relationship between depressive symptoms and health-related quality of life: A population-based twin study in Sri Lanka

Panagiota Triantafyllou*, Zeynep Nas, Helena Zavos, Athula Sumathipala, Kaushayla Jayaweera, Sisira Siribaddana, Matthew Hotopf, Stuart Ritchie, Fruhling Rijsdijk

*Corresponding author for this work

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Depression often co-occurs with poor health-related quality of life (HRQL). Twin studies report genetic and individual-level environmental underpinnings in the aetiology of both depression and HRQL, but there is limited twin research exploring this association further. There is also little evidence on sex differences and non-Western populations are underrepresented. In this paper we explored the phenotypic and aetiological relationship between depressive symptoms and HRQL and possible sex differences in a low-middle-income Sri Lankan population.

Data for 3,948 participants came from the Colombo Twin and Singleton Follow-up Study (CoTaSS-2). Using self-report measures of depressive symptoms and HRQL, we conducted univariate and bivariate sex-limitation twin analyses.

Depressive symptoms showed moderate genetic (33%) and strong nonshared environmental influences (67%). Nonshared environment accounted for the majority of variance in all the subscales of HRQL (ranging from 68 to 93%), alongside small genetic influences (ranging from 0 to 23%) and shared environmental influences (ranging from 0 to 28%). Genetic influences were significant for emotional wellbeing (23%). Shared environmental influences were significant for four out of the eight HRQL variables (ranging from 22–28%), and they were more prominent in females than males. Depressive symptoms were significantly associated with lower HRQL scores. These correlations were mostly explained by overlapping nonshared environmental effects. For traits related to emotional functioning, we also detected substantial overlapping genetic influences with depressive symptoms.

Our study confirmed previous findings of a negative association between depressive symptoms and HRQL. However, some of the aetiological factors of HRQL differed from Western studies, particularly regarding the effects of shared environment. Our findings highlight the importance of cross-cultural research in understanding associations between psychological wellbeing and HRQL.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265421
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3 March
Early online date30 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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