Clinical Characteristics, Life Adversities and Personality Traits in Monozygotic Twins With, at Risk of and Without Affective Disorders

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Background: Affective disorders have a long-term impact on psychiatric health and are caused by multiple interacting factors including familial risk, childhood adversity, life events and personality traits. Methods: In this study, monozygotic twins (MZ) at familial risk (indexed by affective disorder in their co-twin; high-risk group), affected MZ twins (indexed by a diagnosis with affective disorder) and MZ twins with no family history of affective disorder (low-risk group) were identified through cross-linking of nation-wide Danish registers. In total, 204 MZ twins were included and psychopathology, personality traits and life adversity were evaluated by semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Results: Affected MZ twins presented with more subclinical affective symptoms and were functionally impaired as evidenced by higher unemployment rates and reduced functional status. The affected and the high-risk groups reported more childhood adversity and had experienced more stressful life events than the low-risk group. A direct comparison within the discordant twin pairs showed that the high-risk twins presented fewer affective symptoms, better functional status, more extraversion and lower neuroticism scores than their affected co-twins although they had equal levels of life adversity as their affected co-twins. Conclusion: These findings add to the evidence indicating that patients experience higher neuroticism, persistent subclinical symptoms and reduced socio-occupational function after affective episodes. Additionally, neuroticism and extraversion seem capable of moderating the sensitivity to exposure from the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number401
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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