Genomics in general practice

Mental health conditions

Last revised: 30 Nov 2018

Practice point

There are currently no specific high-risk gene variants that are associated with mental health disorders that are useful for predictive testings in clinical practice.1,2

Some companies that offer personal genomic testing may include variants that are associated with increased risk of certain mental health conditions. The results are unlikely to have any clinical utility.

The causes of mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, are multifactorial, and include environmental, social and genetic factors.

Table 1 outlines the empirical risk according to family history for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Table 1. Empirical risk of schizophrenia according to family history

Table 1

Empirical risk of schizophrenia according to family history3,4

While some genetic variants have been shown to be associated with mental health conditions, there is no genetic test that can predict mental illness with certainty.

Some commercial genetic tests available are used to tailor drug treatments to individuals with a mental health disorder (Pharmacogenomics: Summary). There are currently no Australian clinical guidelines to support such use.1,5

There is no indication to refer patients with a family history of mental illness (eg couples considering pregnancy) to genetics services.

Centre for Genetics Education, Fact sheet 59: Mental illness – Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
National Library of Medicine (US), Bipolar disorder
National Library of Medicine (US), Schizophrenia

  1. International Society of Psychiatric Genetics. Genetic testing and psychiatric disorders: A statement from the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics. Brentwood, TN: ISPG, 2017 [Accessed 20 December 2017].
  2. State MW, Geschwind DH. Leveraging genetics and genomics to define the causes of mental illness. Biol Psychiatry 2015;77(1):3–5. [Accessed 20 December 2017].
  3. Harper PS. Practical genetic counselling. 7th edn. London: Hodder Arnold, 2010. [Accessed 20 December 2017].
  4. Slater E, Cowie V. The genetics of mental disorders. London: Oxford University Press, 1971. [Accessed 20 December 2017].
  5. Hamilton SP. The promise of psychiatric pharmacogenomics. Biol Psychiatry. 2015;77(1):29–35. [Accessed 20 December 2017].
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