Researcher explores genetic interaction between personality traits and COVID


In a recent study conducted at the University of Munich in Germany, scientists set out to uncover the genetic effects of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on individuals.

Since the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected and changed our lives in many ways, it was important to determine the relationship between the genetics of the COVID-19 host and personality traits and psychiatric disorders. Additionally, previous studies have indicated that people with mental disorders are more likely to be infected with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for COVID-19, making this even more important research.

Study: Interaction between genetics of personality traits, severe psychiatric disorders and COVID-19 host genetics in susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Image Credit: Lightspring /

About the study

The aim of the present study was to examine the overlapping genetic basis between major psychiatric disorders, personality traits and susceptibility to COVID-19.

Linkage imbalance analysis was used to explore the genetic correlations of COVID-19 susceptibility with psychiatric disorders and personality traits based on data from the most relevant respective genome-wide association studies. complete possible. This was done in two different cohort studies, including the PsyCourse and HeiDE studies.

The PsyCourse study consisted of individuals with major psychiatric disorders, where the control group included individuals without any major psychiatric disorder. This was delivered throughout Germany and Austria and was tracked longitudinally.

Polygenic risk scores were then used to determine if there was a genetic link between psychiatric disorders, personality traits and susceptibility to COVID-19 in data at the individual level. Data at the individual level were then used to estimate polygenic risk scores (PRS).

PRS were assessed to determine whether susceptibility to COVID-19 correlated with case status or extraversion scores. The PRS were estimated by the PRS-CS method, excluding the HLA region on chromosome 6.

Study results

Researchers have not observed any significant genetic association of susceptibility to COVID-19 with psychiatric disorders. Although, for personality traits, there has been a significant genetic correlation for susceptibility to COVID-19 with extraversion.

However, to confirm these results for extraversion in a different study setting, the extraversion analysis was repeated in the more comprehensive HeiDE study. Indeed, the HeiDE study was specifically created to estimate the link between personality traits and somatic disorders. In this study, however, the team also did not recognize a significant association of PRS for susceptibility and extraversion to COVID-19.

Overall, direct genetic overlap was not found to contribute to the increased but unexplained risk of COVID-19 seen in people with a psychiatric diagnosis prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, a shared genetic risk could still be caused by intermediate phenotypes. These phenotypes can include factors such as lower socioeconomic status or academic achievement in people with severe psychotic disorders.

It was further noted that even greater attention should be paid to psychosocial interventions, such as establishing a good treatment plan for people with severe psychiatric disorders. In addition, there should be targeted preventive and psychoeducational measures for people with personality determinants.


The current identified has not identified any notable link between genetic risk factors for serious psychiatric disorders and the genetic risk of susceptibility to COVID-19. However, among all the personality traits, extraversion has shown evidence of a positive genetic association with susceptibility to COVID-19, but only in one setting and not in another.

Taken together, these results highlight a complex contribution of genetic and non-genetic components in the interaction between susceptibility to COVID-19 and personality traits or mental disorders.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer reviewed and, therefore, should not be considered conclusive, guide clinical practice / health-related behavior, or treated as established information.


About Alma Ackerman

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