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

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