What Role Do Genes Play in Mental Illness?

Most people believe that if they are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it's due to genetics, and as a result, they believe they have little control over their condition.

But as you can see by the chart below, genetics are more influential for some mental illnesses than others.

Heritability of Mental Illness

As a reference point, you can see above that almost 100% of your height is due to genetics. You have almost no control over how tall you become. On the far end of the spectrum, you'll see that language is 0% genetic, so the language you speak is 100% determined by your environment, namely your family and your community.

Now, look at mental illness. You can see that some mental illnesses like Bipolar and Schizophrenia have a fairly large genetic contribution - above 75%. That means that while genes can play a significant role, other factors also play a role. For example, research shows that teens who use cannabis are 2x as likely to develop schizophrenia.

However, as you can see with anxiety and depression, genetics play a much smaller role (just 25-30%). This is exciting news because it means we have more control than we think when it comes to managing our mental health.

Research shows that regardless of the genes you are given, you can take action to improve your mental health. So, what can you do?


Wellbeing Assessment
Five Star Wellbeing Action Item

Starting today, until January 31st, 2021, when you take the Five Star Wellbeing Assessment, not only will you expand your understanding of what brings about wellbeing, you will also be entered into a draw for a FREE 1 Hour counselling therapy session. 

Whether you have taken the assessment before or not, this is the perfect chance to try it, or to do it again and check your progress. Visit: https://fivestarwellbeing.com/wellbeing-assessment

Feel free to share the link with those you care about.


Take good care of your wellbeing, and your mental health this month, and every month.

Derrick McEachern



Your wellbeing matters. Take five minutes to learn if you are suffering, surviving or thriving in five essential areas of life and what you can do to improve your wellbeing. Try it now.

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About the Author:

Derrick McEachern is a Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) in Nova Scotia, and a Canadian Certified Counsellor.  He specializes in providing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in the areas of addiction, healthy relationships, grief and loss, and career and life transitions. He offers workshops and webinars and consults with businesses on ways to improve employee wellbeing and mental health.

Derrick McEachern

Derrick McEachern, M.Ed., RCT, CCC
Counselling Therapist, Owner
Five Star Wellbeing Counselling and Mental Health
tel: 902 698 1194
[email protected]
https://fivestarwellbeing.com

Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
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