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, 17 (6), e12472

Predicting Loneliness With Polygenic Scores of Social, Psychological and Psychiatric Traits


Predicting Loneliness With Polygenic Scores of Social, Psychological and Psychiatric Traits

A Abdellaoui et al. Genes Brain Behav.


Loneliness is a heritable trait that accompanies multiple disorders. The association between loneliness and mental health indices may partly be due to inherited biological factors. We constructed polygenic scores for 27 traits related to behavior, cognition and mental health and tested their prediction for self-reported loneliness in a population-based sample of 8798 Dutch individuals. Polygenic scores for major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were significantly associated with loneliness. Of the Big Five personality dimensions, polygenic scores for neuroticism and conscientiousness also significantly predicted loneliness, as did the polygenic scores for subjective well-being, tiredness and self-rated health. When including all polygenic scores simultaneously into one model, only 2 major depression polygenic scores remained as significant predictors of loneliness. When controlling only for these 2 MDD polygenic scores, only neuroticism and schizophrenia remain significant. The total variation explained by all polygenic scores collectively was 1.7%. The association between the propensity to feel lonely and the susceptibility to psychiatric disorders thus pointed to a shared genetic etiology. The predictive power of polygenic scores will increase as the power of the genome-wide association studies on which they are based increases and may lead to clinically useful polygenic scores that can inform on the genetic predisposition to loneliness and mental health.

Keywords: genetic correlation; genetic prediction; loneliness; major depressive disorder; polygenic scores.

Conflict of interest statement


The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Results of the GEE association analyses between loneliness and polygenic scores (ordered on effect size of the analyses of individual scores); N = 8798. Bonferroni corrected α: .05/24 independent tests = .002, where the independence was determined by PCA
Partial correlations between 27 polygenic scores, adjusted for sex, age and the first 10 genetic principal components. The size of circles corresponds to the strength of the correlation

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