10/30/2015 feature story
Bill Axinn and Dirgha Ghimire combine genetic and population data to examine the complex relationships among psychiatric disorders and the characteristics of families and communities.
Psychiatric disorders are the leading source of disability worldwide. In addition to the individual suffering they entail, the disability associated with these disorders includes substantial consequences for family and health outcomes. Dissecting the relationship among family, community and psychiatric factors is complex because of the high potential for reciprocal causation. The result is a formidable challenge to understanding the role of psychiatric disorders in a wide range of adverse outcomes. The first step toward disentangling this complex relationship is to identify the role of causal factors that precede the formation of psychiatric disorders so that subsequent steps can estimate the mediating power of psychiatric disorders in long-term outcomes such as family change and variation. Here we propose to take this first step using a transformative new approach with the potential to significantly advance the next generation of basic behavioral and social sciences research. The integration of psychiatric genetics and population studies has the potential transform the study of both mental health and family change and variation. Likewise, the integration of these sciences into studies that represent both men and women experiencing common sets of environmental risk factors holds high promise for identification of mechanisms that produce sex differences in gene expression.
William G. Axinn, Dirgha J. Ghimire
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