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Children's Health


By taking a closer look at genetics.

Children's healthAnxiety disorders affect 10 per cent of young people, and are the most common mental health disorder in children. 

These disorders include:

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • phobias
  • separation anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress
  • panic disorder

Researchers at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry have identified a genetic marker that allows us to predict if a child with an anxiety disorder will respond to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 

Our research shows that children with the genetic marker – 5HTPP – were 20 per cent more likely to respond to CBT and to be free of their anxiety six months after their treatment finished. 

This is the first time a genetic analysis has been used to assess whether a treatment like CBT will work in children. Two forms of the genetic marker exist within the population, a long and short form. The short form can be used to predict which people are prone to depression when under stress. 

Researchers have also recently found that the short form influences how people respond to their environment more generally, in a positive or negative way. 

The King’s study, led by Dr Thalia Eley at the MRC (Medical Research Council) Centre for Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry at the institute, showed that children with the short form of the genetic marker were more responsive to CBT and were more likely to get overcome their anxiety. 

Our research focuses on the interplay between genetic, environmental and developmental factors, and the causes that underpin mental disorders. We then study the consequences of these factors, with the aim of improving health policy. 

One of the reasons we can conduct such world-leading research is because we can access large data sets for populations who have been followed up over many years. 

Please help us by making a donation today, so we can continue our groundbreaking research into mental health. Your support is invaluable.  

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