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Prevalence and heritability of body dysmorphic symptoms in adolescents and young adults: a population-based nationwide twin study

  • Jesper Enander (a1) (a2), Volen Z. Ivanov (a1) (a2), David Mataix-Cols (a1) (a2), Ralf Kuja-Halkola (a3), Brjánn Ljótsson (a1), Sebastian Lundström (a4) (a5), Ana Pérez-Vigil (a1), Benedetta Monzani (a6), Paul Lichtenstein (a3) and Christian Rück (a1) (a2)...
Abstract
Background

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) usually begins during adolescence but little is known about the prevalence, etiology, and patterns of comorbidity in this age group. We investigated the prevalence of BDD symptoms in adolescents and young adults. We also report on the relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on BDD symptoms, and the risk for co-existing psychopathology.

Methods

Prevalence of BDD symptoms was determined by a validated cut-off on the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire (DCQ) in three population-based twin cohorts at ages 15 (n = 6968), 18 (n = 3738), and 20–28 (n = 4671). Heritability analysis was performed using univariate model-fitting for the DCQ. The risk for co-existing psychopathology was expressed as odds ratios (OR).

Results

The prevalence of clinically significant BDD symptoms was estimated to be between 1 and 2% in the different cohorts, with a significantly higher prevalence in females (1.3–3.3%) than in males (0.2–0.6%). The heritability of body dysmorphic concerns was estimated to be 49% (95% CI 38–54%) at age 15, 39% (95% CI 30–46) at age 18, and 37% (95% CI 29–42) at ages 20–28, with the remaining variance being due to non-shared environment. ORs for co-existing neuropsychiatric and alcohol-related problems ranged from 2.3 to 13.2.

Conclusions

Clinically significant BDD symptoms are relatively common in adolescence and young adulthood, particularly in females. The low occurrence of BDD symptoms in adolescent boys may indicate sex differences in age of onset and/or etiological mechanisms. BDD symptoms are moderately heritable in young people and associated with an increased risk for co-existing neuropsychiatric and alcohol-related problems.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Jesper Enander, E-mail: jesper.enander@ki.se
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