The gut microbiota and depressive symptoms across ethnic groups

Jos A. Bosch*, Max Nieuwdorp, Aeilko H. Zwinderman, Mélanie Deschasaux, Djawad Radjabzadeh, Robert Kraaij, Mark Davids, Susanne R. de Rooij, Anja Lok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The gut microbiome is thought to play a role in depressive disorders, which makes it an attractive target for interventions. Both the microbiome and depressive symptom levels vary substantially across ethnic groups. Thus, any intervention for depression targeting the microbiome requires understanding of microbiome-depression associations across ethnicities. Analysing data from the HELIUS cohort, we characterize the gut microbiota and its associations with depressive symptoms in 6 ethnic groups (Dutch, South-Asian Surinamese, African Surinamese, Ghanaian, Turkish, Moroccan; N = 3211), living in the same urban area. Diversity of the gut microbiota, both within (α-diversity) and between individuals (β-diversity), predicts depressive symptom levels, taking into account demographic, behavioural, and medical differences. These associations do not differ between ethnic groups. Further, β-diversity explains 29%–18% of the ethnic differences in depressive symptoms. Bacterial genera associated with depressive symptoms belong to mulitple families, prominently including the families Christensenellaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Ruminococcaceae. In summary, the results show that the gut microbiota are linked to depressive symptom levels and that this association generalizes across ethnic groups. Moreover, the results suggest that ethnic differences in the gut microbiota may partly explain parallel disparities in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7129
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

The HELIUS study is conducted by the Amsterdam University Medical Centers, location AMC and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam. Both organizations provided core support for HELIUS. The HELIUS study is also funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the European Union (FP-7), and the European Fund for the Integration of non-EU immigrants (EIF). We are most grateful to the participants of the HELIUS study and the management team, research nurses, interviewers, research assistants and other staff who have taken part in gathering the data of this study. We especially like to thank Dr. Henrike Galenkamp, Dr. Mary Nicolai, Prof. Aart Schene, Dr. Laura Steenbergen, Prof. Karien Stronks, and Dr. Andrei Prodan for their support in various phases of the project. Grant numbers: - Dutch Heart Foundation: 2010T084 (K Stronks). - ZonMw: 200500003 (K Stronks). - European Union (FP-7): 278901 (K Stronks). - European Fund for the Integration of non-EU immigrants (EIF): 2013EIF013 (K Stronks). - H2020 Research Innovation Action (RIA). Grant agreement ID: 848146 (JA Bosch).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


Dive into the research topics of 'The gut microbiota and depressive symptoms across ethnic groups'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this