Depression, anxiety and high neuroticism (affective traits) are often comorbid with asthma. A causal direction between the affective traits and asthma is difficult to determine, however, it may be that there is a common underlying pathway attributable to shared genetic factors. Our aim was to determine whether a common genetic susceptibility exists for asthma and each of the affective traits. An adult twin cohort from the Swedish Twin Register underwent questionnaire-based health assessments (n=23 693) and genotyping (n=15 908). Firstly, questionnaire-based associations between asthma and affective traits were explored. This was followed by genetic analyses: a) polygenic risk scores (PRS) for affective traits were used as predictors of asthma, and b) linkage-disequilibrium score regression based on genome-wide association results from UK Biobank was used to quantify genetic correlations. Analyses found that the questionnaire-based associations between asthma and each affective trait were associated (OR 1.7, 95%CI 1.5-1.9 major depression, OR 1.5, 95%CI 1.3-1.6 anxiety, and OR 1.6, 95% 1.4-1.8 high neuroticism). Genetic susceptibility for neuroticism explained the variance in asthma with a dose response effect; that is, those in the highest neuroticism PRS quartile were more likely to have asthma than those in the lowest quartile (OR 1.4, 95%CI 1.2- 1.6). Genetic correlations were found between depression and asthma (rg= 0.17), but not for anxiety or neuroticism score. We conclude that the observed comorbidity between asthma and the affective traits may in part be due to shared genetic influences between asthma and depression and neuroticism, but not anxiety.
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