Phenotypic and aetiological architecture of depressive symptoms in a Japanese twin sample

Yusuke Takahashi, Yusuke Takahashi, Jean Baptiste Pingault, Jean Baptiste Pingault, Shinji Yamagata, Juko Ando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phenotypic and aetiological architecture of depression symptomatology has been mostly studied in Western samples. In this study, we conducted a genetically informed factor analysis to elucidate both the phenotypic and aetiological architectures of self-reported depression among a Japanese adult twin sample.Methods Depressive symptoms assessed by Zung's Self-rating Depression Scale were self-rated by 425 twin pairs (301 monozygotic and 124 dizygotic twin pairs) in a community sample in Japan.Results An exploratory factor analysis extracted three symptom domains representing cognitive, affective and somatic symptomatology. A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated that a bi-factor solution fitted better than the alternative solutions, implying that depression may be defined as a combination of a single general construct and three factors specific to each of the three symptom domains. A multivariate genetic analysis with the bi-factor solution showed that the general factor was substantially heritable (47%), and that only the affective symptom domain was significantly heritable (29%) among the three specific factors, their remaining variance being explained by non-shared environmental influences.Conclusions Depression symptomatology appears to be adequately captured by a substantially heritable general factor. The heritability of this factor (47%) in a Japanese adult sample is in line with commonly reported heritability estimates for depression. The three specific factors - cognitive, affective and somatic - are mostly explained by non-shared environmental factors, which include measurement error. The extent to which these specific factors are uniquely associated with correlates of depression when the general factor is accounted for should be investigated in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1389
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 1


  • Behavioural genetics
  • bi-factor model
  • depression
  • heritability
  • twin study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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