1.4 Million € ZonMw grant to study children of parents with mood disorders (MARIO project)

Researchers at GGZ inGeest and the VU University Medical Center (VUmc) have been awarded with a grant in the amount of 1.433.000 € from ZonMw, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, to set up an 8-year project about offspring of parents with mood disorders. This project - called MARIO (Mood and Resilience in Offspring) - is a collaboration between psychiatrists, patients, insurances, municipalities, and academic researchers from VUmc Amsterdam, UMC Utrecht, Leiden UMC, UMC Groningen, and EMC Rotterdam. Principal investigators are Prof. Brenda Penninx (VUmc) and Prof. Manon Hillegers (EMC). The central aim of the project is to better 1) understand, 2) detect and 3) prevent depression in children of parents with mood disorders.

One of the greatest risk factors for developing depression is having a parent with a mood disorder. Among offspring of parents with depression or bipolar disorder, more than 50% will develop affective psychopathology before the age of 35. The offspring of these parents are not only genetically more susceptible to the development of depression, but also grow up in a more vulnerable environment.

Children at risk to develop depression
"We know that having a parent with a mood disorder increases the risk of having a depression yourself", says Dominique Maciejewski (VUmc), postdoctoral researcher within the MARIO project. "Only few studies, however, to date have focused on pathways of this intergenerational transmission. With our project we want to shed more light onto why children of parents with mood disorders are at greater risk for depression, but also why some of these children do not develop depression despite their familial risk."

Screening and prevention
Apart from better understanding the intergenerational transmission of depression, the researchers have the following two additional aims. Brenda Penninx (VUmc), principal investigator of the MARIO project: "We want to create a valid screening instrument for depression that should be implemented in clinical practice and that helps to detect and signal depressive symptoms in children of parents mood disorders. Moreover, we will develop an online preventive intervention and evaluate whether this can prevent the onset of depression in children of parents with depression. With this project, we hope to ultimately improve mental health in offspring of parents with mood disorders."

For more information about the MARIO project: d.maciejewski@ggzingeest.nl.