Nav: Home

Sick and tired -- not just a figure of speech

February 14, 2017

Already feeling drained so early in the year? Genes might contribute in a small but significant way to whether people report being tired and low in energy. This is according to UK researchers led by Vincent Deary of Northumbria University, Newcastle, and Saskia Hagenaars of the University of Edinburgh, in a paper in Springer Nature's journal Molecular Psychiatry.

They found that genetics accounts for about eight percent of people's differences in self-reported tiredness/low energy; this implies that the vast majority of people's differences in self-reported tiredness are environmental in origin. The researchers found that the small genetic contributions to self-reported tiredness overlapped with genetic contributions to a range of mental and physical health conditions, and with whether people smoke, or are carrying too much weight, and also longevity.

Their large-scale study analyzed genetic information of 111,749 participants who all indicated whether they felt tired or low in energy in the two weeks before their data were collected in the UK Biobank study. The large UK Biobank resource is used to identify the reasons behind certain diseases occurring in middle aged and older people. It includes genetic samples as well as information about participants' physical and mental health, personality and cognitive functioning. The researchers working together on the study conducted various statistical analyses, including genome-wide associations, heritability estimates, and testing genetic associations between tiredness and more than 25 health-related variables. The researchers took factors such as age and gender into account.

The findings suggest that it was genetic proneness to some illnesses, not just presence of these illnesses, that had an association with self-reports of tiredness. For instance, the researchers looked at people who were genetically prone to diabetes but did not have the condition, and the small genetic link with tiredness remained intact. Indeed, genetic overlap was found to exist between tiredness and a general tendency to poor health.

"Being genetically predisposed to a range of mental and physical health complaints also predisposes people to report that they are more tired or lacking in energy," added Hagenaars.

This applied to people with a higher genetic tendency to symptoms of the so-called metabolic syndrome, such as high cholesterol levels, and a high waist to hip ratio or obesity. According to the research team, these links raise the possibility of a genetic link between tiredness and vulnerability to physiological stress.

A genetic association between tiredness and longevity was also found, and with whether someone had higher genetic tendency to weak grip strength, smoking, depression, and schizophrenia. The findings also suggest that people who have a tendency to experience more mental and emotional distress are more likely to report being tired.

Overall, the findings confirm that self-reported tiredness is a partly heritable, complex phenomenon. It has genetic associations with various health, physiological, cognitive, personality, and affective processes. But the researchers emphasized that most of people's differences in tiredness are probably environmental. The genetic data available accounted for only 8.4 percent of people's differences in tiredness.

"Although tiredness is largely causally heterogeneous, there may be a small but significant direct genetic contribution to tiredness proneness," Deary said, summarizing the findings of this part of the study.

The research team foresees that more tests to find such links will be done in future as more genome-wide genotyping data becomes available.
-end-
Reference: Deary, V. & Hagenaars, S. P. et al. (2017). Genetic contributions to self-reported tiredness, Molecular Psychiatry DOI:10.1038/mp.2017.5

Springer

Related Mental Health Articles:

Food insecurity can affect your mental health
Food insecurity (FI) affects nearly 795 million people worldwide. Although a complex phenomenon encompassing food availability, affordability, utilization, and even the social norms that define acceptable ways to acquire food, FI can affect people's health beyond its impact on nutrition.
Climate change's toll on mental health
When people think about climate change, they probably think first about its effects on the environment, and possibly on their physical health.
Quantifying nature's mental health benefits
The BioScience Talks podcast features discussions of topical issues related to the biological sciences.
Sexism may be harmful to men's mental health
Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Mental health matters
UCSB researchers study the effectiveness of an innovative program designed to help youth learn about mental health.
Could mental math boost emotional health?
Engaging the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) while doing mental math may be connected with better emotional health, according to Duke researchers.
Program will train mental health providers, improve health care in rural Missouri
A new graduate education program at the University of Missouri has received nearly $700,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the US Department of Health and Human Services to train psychology doctoral candidates in integrated, primary health care settings, in an effort to improve health care for underserved populations with mental health and physical disorders.
Loss of employer-based health insurance in early retirement affects mental, physical health
The loss of private health insurance from an employer can lead to poorer mental and physical health as older adults transition to early retirement, according to a study by Georgia State University.
Ocean views linked to better mental health
Here's another reason to start saving for that beach house: new research suggests that residents with a view of the water are less stressed.
New study shows electronic health records often capture incomplete mental health data
This study compares information available in a typical electronic health record (EHR) with data from insurance claims, focusing on diagnoses, visits, and hospital care for depression and bipolar disorder.

Related Mental Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".