Project ID NS-MH2023_64


Co Supervisor 1A IoPPN/PsychologyWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B IoPPN/Social, Genetic and Developmental PsychiatryWebsite

The role of premenstrual symptoms, pregnancy, and contraceptive use on the experience of depression in women

Project Description:

Research has shown that women experience more symptoms of depression and are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. These differences in prevalence only become evident after the onset of puberty.  This raises the possibility that sex-specific experiences such as premenstrual symptoms, contraception use, and pregnancy may be important.  The role of sex specific experiences in the development of mental health conditions, is an under-researched area.  This PhD project will use advanced statistical methods to understand the role of female sex hormones, pregnancy and contraceptive use on the experience of depression in women.  The project will utilise data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS; 10k twin pairs followed from birth to adulthood), the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa; >100k families recruited during pregnancy and followed postnatally) and the UK biobank (500k adults).

Skills & Techniques: Structural equation modelling; Behavioural genetic methods; Causal inference methods; Genome-wide association studies


Students will be able to work with us to develop their own research objectives, examples include:

  • Year 1: use a twin differences design to investigate trajectory of depression symptoms and the role of PMS and puberty on depression symptoms in TEDs
  • Year 2: use MoBa to explore the nature of associations between PMS, antenatal depression and postnatal depression and how these may impact on child mental health.
  • Year 3: Explore the relationship between hormonal contraceptive use, depression and PMS using TEDs. 
  •  Year 4: Using genomic data from UK Biobank, investigate genetic correlations between PMS and a range of physical and mental health conditions.

Representative Publications

Zavos et al (2020). The relationship between independent and dependent stressful life events and depression symptoms in Sri Lanka: a twin and singleton study, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 55, 237-249.

Hannigan, L. J., Eilertsen, E. M., Gjerde, L., Eley, T. C., Rijsdijk, F. V., Ystrom, E., McAdams, T. A. (2018). Maternal prenatal depressive symptoms and risk for early-life psychopathology in offspring: genetic analyses in the Norwegian Mother and Child Birth Cohort Study. Lancet Psychiatry.