Genetic underpinnings of sociability in the UK Biobank
Difficulties with sociability include a tendency to avoid social contacts and activities, and to prefer being alone rather than being with others. While sociability is a continuously distributed trait in the population, decreased sociability represent a common early manifestation of multiple neuropsychiatric disorders such as Schizophrenia (SCZ), Bipolar Disorder (BP), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), and Alzheimers disease (AD). We aimed to investigate the
... investigate the genetic underpinnings of sociability as a continuous trait in the general population. In this respect, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using a sociability score based on 4 social functioning-related self-report questions in the UK Biobank sample (n=342,461) to test the effect of individual genetic variants. This was followed by LD score analyses to investigate the genetic correlation with psychiatric disorders (SCZ, BP, MDD, ASDs) and a neurological disorder (AD) as well as related phenotypes (Loneliness and Social Anxiety). The phenotypic data indeed showed that the sociability score was decreased in individuals with (probable) MDD and SCZ, but not in individuals with AD. Our GWAS showed 604 genome-wide significant SNPs, coming from 19 independent loci (SNP-based h2=0.06). Genetic correlation analyses showed significant correlations with SCZ (rg=0.15, p=9.8e-23), MDD (rg=0.68, p=6.6e-248) and ASDs (rg=0.27, p=4.5e-28), but no correlation with BP (rg=0.01, p=0.45) or AD (rg=0.04, p=0.55). Our sociability trait was also genetically correlated with Loneliness (rg=0.45, p=2.4e-8) and Social Anxiety (rg=0.48, p=0.002). Our study shows that there is a significant genetic component to variation in population levels of sociability, which is relevant to some psychiatric disorders (SCZ, MDD, ASDs), but not to BP and AD.