A cross-disorder MR-pheWAS of 5 major psychiatric disorders in UK Biobank

Beate Leppert, Louise A. C. Millard, Lucy Riglin, George Davey Smith, Anita Thapar, Kate Tilling, Esther Walton, Evie Stergiakouli

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Psychiatric disorders are highly heritable and associated with a wide variety of social adversity and physical health problems. Using genetic liability (rather than phenotypic measures of disease) as a proxy for psychiatric disease risk can be a useful alternative for research questions that would traditionally require large cohort studies with long-term follow up.Here we conducted a hypothesis-free phenome-wide association study in about 300,000 participants from the UK Biobank to examine associations of polygenic risk scores (PRS) for five psychiatric disorders (major depression (MDD), bipolar disorder (BP), schizophrenia (SCZ), attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)) with 23,004 outcomes in UK Biobank, using the open-source PHESANT software package.There was evidence after multiple testing (p<2.55×10−06) for associations of PRSs with 226 outcomes, most of them attributed to associations of PRSMDD (n=120) with mental health factors and PRSADHD (n=77) with socio-demographic factors. Among others, we found strong evidence of associations between a 1 standard deviation increase in PRSADHD with 1.1 months younger age at first sexual intercourse [95% confidence interval [CI]: −1.26,−0.94]; PRSASD with 0.01% reduced lower erythrocyte distribution width [95%CI: −0.013,-0.007]; PRSSCZ with 0.98 odds of playing computer games [95%CI:0.976,0.989]; PRSMDD with a 0.11 points higher neuroticism score [95%CI:0.094,0.118] and PRSBP with 1.04 higher odds of having a university degree [95%CI:1.033,1.048].We were able to show that genetic liabilities for five major psychiatric disorders associate with long-term aspects of adult life, including socio-demographic factors, mental and physical health. This is evident even in individuals from the general population who do not necessarily present with a psychiatric disorder diagnosis.AUTHOR SUMMARY Psychiatric disorders are associated with a wide range of adverse health, social and economic problems. Our study investigates the association of genetic risk for five common psychiatric disorders with socio-demographics, lifestyle and health of about 330,000 participants in the UK Biobank using a systematic, hypothesis-free approach. We found that genetic risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder were most strongly associated with lifestyle factors, such as time of first sexual intercourse and educational attainment. Genetic risks for autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia were associated with altered blood cell counts and time playing computer games, respectively. Increased genetic risk for depression was associated with other mental health outcomes such as neuroticism and irritability. In general, our results suggest that genetic risk for psychiatric disorders associates with a range of health and lifestyle traits that were measured in adulthood, in individuals from the general population who do not necessarily present with a psychiatric disorder diagnosis. However, it is important to note that these associations aren’t necessary causal but can themselves be influenced by other factors, like socio-economic factors and selection into the cohort. The findings inform future hypotheses to be tested using causally informative designs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e1008185
JournalPlos Genetics
Issue number5
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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