Depression & Anxiety

Depression is a mental health issue that affects 1 in 5 people at some stage of their lives. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, down or miserable most of the time, losing interest or pleasure in most of your usual activities, changes in weight, appetite, and sleep patterns, poor concentration, lack of energy, and difficulty thinking. Anxiety often co-occurs with depression. While occasional anxiety or worry are normal parts of our lives, anxiety that becomes more constant or interferes with your social, home or work life can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Depression and Anxiety are complex and heterogeneous disorders in which traumatic experiences, genetic factors, temperament, and interpersonal relations all play a role. It has been estimated that, at the population level, 37% of the variation in depression is due to genetic factors1 and that biological factors may play a greater role among recurrent and early-onset depression. 2,3

Within the Australian 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing the life time prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) was estimated at 12%, with 6.2% of participants having experienced an affective disorder within the past 12 months.4 Similar prevalence has been reported in nation-wide US studies.5,6

Although females report problems with depression almost twice as often as males, the number of boys and men affected by depression are substantial as reflected by a male life time prevalence of 8.8%.4 Between 2011 and 2012, it’s estimated that 12.1% of all visits to general practitioners within Australia were for mental health-related issues and that 42% of these visits were by men.7,8


Our research focuses on:

  • understanding the genetics of depression and anxiety
  • mood and anxiety disorders (including Major Depressive Disorder) – what causes them, why they run in families and how to better diagnose them
  • genetics of risk and response to treatment of depression; the purpose of this research project is to identify specific genetic risk factors associated with risk of depression, as well as factors associated with response to treatment. We hope that this research will help us learn more about depression and the factors influencing why various treatments are successful for some people and not others. We are actively recruiting participants, go to: 



  1. Sullivan, P.F., M.C. Neale, and K.S. Kendler, Genetic epidemiology of major depression: Review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2000. 157(10): p. 1552-1562.
  2. Levinson, D.F., The genetics of depression: a review. Biol Psychiatry, 2006. 60(2): p. 84-92.
  3. McGuffin, P., et al., A hospital-based twin register of the heritability of DSM-IV unipolar depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1996. 53(2): p. 129-36.
  4. Slade, T., et al., The Mental Health of Australians 2: Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. . 2009, Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra.
  5. Hasin, D.S., et al., Epidemiology of major depressive disorder: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2005. 62(10): p. 1097-106.
  6. Kessler, R.C., et al., The epidemiology of major depressive disorder: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). JAMA, 2003. 289(23): p. 3095-105.
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2012; Available from:
  8. Britt, H., et al., General practice activity in Australia 2011–12. General practice series no.31 2012: Sydney.