Results – Mental Health in Families Poll

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my interest in the nature vs nuture debate in mental health issues and I set up a very unscientific poll to try and do a spot test to see if people on Twitter and in the blog world, had relatives with mental health issues. The results are now in:

Almost 75% of those who responded who have a mental health condition also have at least 1 other member of their family with a mental health condition. In face 60% of them have more than 1 relative with an issue.

This does seem to suggest there is some family link and this could, of course, be genetic. However, it is also possible to be learned behaviour so I asked the second question – ‘is the mental health condition the same or different as yours?’

The results for this question were much more even:

33% = same as theirs

37% = had members of the family with both the same and different conditions

30% = different condition

This suggests to me that whilst some mental health condition behaviours can and might be learned, that this is not always the case. With one-third of people having a relative with a different mental health condition you could ask how is their condition learned? However, you can also ask where did the genes come from? With mental health being so little talked about, I do wonder if we know all there is to know about mental health in our own families.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t take either nature or nurture on their own. I do believe there is an important mixture that plays a part. However I will leave you with this puzzler:

I know a family that had identical twin boys. They had exactly the same genes and exactly the same upbringing. In their 20s one was diagnosed with schizophrenia and 20 years later committed suicide, whereas the other brother never had any form of mental health issue. It would seem here there is no nature or nuture involved. Perhaps just an anomaly? What do you think?

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One comment on “Results – Mental Health in Families Poll

  1. I have mixed thoughts about this, but suspect it is more nature than nurture. Also I think results could be affected by the way people view mental illness. If you had asked me this question a year ago I would have said that there are no mental health issues in my family. I did not view my son’s OCD as a mental health issue, and although several family members have suffered with depression, I did not view that as a mental health issue either.
    I think many people out there do not want the stigma and so do not seek medical help. The ‘If I don’t see a doctor, I don’t get that label and therefore it is not official so I don’t have a problem.’ attitude. I think the majority of mental health sufferers are probably in the closet!
    (Thanks for the link, by the way. I am finding the blog very therapeutic!)

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