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Asthma and affective traits in adults: a genetically informative study

Kelli Lehto, Nancy L. Pedersen, Catarina Almqvist, Yi Lu, Bronwyn K. Brew

European Respiratory Journal 2019; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.02142-2018


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, there may be 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 cohort from the Swedish Twin Registry 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 in the cohort, and b) genome-wide association results from UK Biobank were used in linkage-disequilibrium score regression (LDSC) to quantify genetic correlations between asthma and affective traits Analyses found associations between questionnaire-based asthma and affective traits (odds ratio (OR) 1.67 95%CI 1.50–1.86 major depression, OR 1.45 95%CI 1.30–1.61 anxiety, and OR 1.60 95%CI 1.40–1.82 high neuroticism). Genetic susceptibility for neuroticism explained the variance in asthma with a dose response effect; that is, study participants in the highest neuroticism PRS quartile were more likely to have asthma than those in the lowest quartile (OR 1.37, 95%CI 1.17–1.61). Genetic correlations were found between depression and asthma (rg=0.17), but not for anxiety or neuroticism.

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 (LDSC) and neuroticism (PRS), but not anxiety.


This manuscript has recently been accepted for publication in the European Respiratory Journal. It is published here in its accepted form prior to copyediting and typesetting by our production team. After these production processes are complete and the authors have approved the resulting proofs, the article will move to the latest issue of the ERJ online. Please open or download the PDF to view this article.

Conflict of interest: Dr. Pedersen has nothing to disclose.

Conflict of interest: Dr. Almqvist has nothing to disclose.

Conflict of interest: Dr. Lu has nothing to disclose.

Conflict of interest: Dr. Brew has nothing to disclose.

Conflict of interest: Dr. Lehto has nothing to disclose.

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