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Depression is more frequent among individuals exposed to traumatic events. Both trauma exposure and depression are heritable. However, the relationship between these traits, including the role of genetic risk factors, is complex and poorly understood. When modelling trauma exposure as an environmental influence on depression, both gene-environment correlations and gene-environment interactions have been observed. The UK Biobank concurrently assessed Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and self-reported lifetime exposure to traumatic events in 126,522 genotyped individuals of European ancestry. We contrasted genetic influences on MDD between individuals reporting and not reporting trauma exposure (final sample size range: 24,094-92,957). The SNP-based heritability of MDD was greater in participants reporting trauma exposure (24%) than in individuals not reporting trauma exposure (12%), taking into account the strong, positive genetic correlation observed between MDD and reported trauma exposure. The genetic correlation between MDD and waist circumference was only significant in individuals reporting trauma exposure (rg = 0.24, p = 1.8×10-7 versus rg = −0.05, p = 0.39 in individuals not reporting trauma exposure, difference p = 2.3×10-4). Our results suggest that the genetic contribution to MDD is greater when additional risk factors are present, and that a complex relationship exists between reported trauma exposure, body composition, and MDD.

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