Genetic and Phenotypic Stability of Measures of Neuroticism Over 22 Years

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
Twin Research and Human Genetics (Impact Factor: 2.3). 11/2007; 10(5):695-702. DOI: 10.1375/twin.10.5.695
Source: PubMed


People meeting diagnostic criteria for anxiety or depressive disorders tend to score high on the personality scale of neuroticism. Studying this dimension of personality can therefore give insights into the etiology of important psychiatric disorders. Neuroticism can be assessed easily via self-report questionnaires in large population samples. We have examined the genetic and phenotypic stability of neuroticism, measured up to 4 times over 22 years, on different scales, on a data set of 4,999 families with over 20,000 individuals completing at least 1 neuroticism questionnaire. The neuroticism scales used were the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire revised (EPQ-R), the EPQ-R shortened form, and the NEO 5 factor inventory personality questionnaire. The estimates of heritability of the individual measures ranged from .26 +/- .04 to .36 +/- .03. Genetic, environmental, and phenotypic correlations averaged .91, .42, and .57 respectively. Despite the range in heritabilities, a more parsimonious 'repeatability model' of equal additive genetic variances and genetic correlations of unity could not be rejected. Use of multiple measures increases the effective heritability from .33 for a single measure to .43 for mean score because of the reduction in the estimate of the environmental variance, and this will increase power in genetic linkage or association studies of neuroticism.

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Available from: Naomi R Wray
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    • "Negative emotionality (e.g., neuroticism) is an acknowledged risk factor for depression (Kendler et al., 2004). Epidemiological studies have identified a substantial genetic component underlying neuroticism (e.g., Wray et al., 2007; Hare et al., 2012), this genetic risk largely being shared with depression (Kendler et al., 2006). Nevertheless, search for specific genetic markers of neuroticism has not produced consistent results, as only a few candidate genes have survived replication (de Moor et al., 2012; Montag and Reuter, 2014; Terracciano et al., 2010), and even for these variants the effect sizes are small. "
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    • "The result might suggest that psychoticism contributes to loneliness, but its association with loneliness might be independent of the left DLPFC structure. Many previous papers have reported that neuroticism and extraversion show temporal stability and heritability (Birley et al. 2006; Bratko and Butkovic 2007; Ivkovic et al. 2007; Wray et al. 2007) and are strongly associated with loneliness (Stokes 1985; Saklofske and Yackulic 1989; Halamandaris and Power 1999; Atak 2009). In fact, our behavioral data also showed that the t-scores for neuroticism and extraversion were significantly related to loneliness. "
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    • "We observed substantial heritabilities for all traits, which are in line with previous findings in the literature (e.g., neuroticism: 0.43–0.59 (e.g., Rettew et al., 2006, Wray et al., 2007), CRP: 0.22–0.76 (e.g., Su et al., 2009; Wörns et al., 2006), and fibrinogen: 0.34–0.52 "
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