Background: The nature and underlying mechanisms of the observed increased vulnerability to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women are unclear.
Methods: We investigated the genetic overlap of PTSD with anthropometric traits and reproductive behaviors and functions in women. The analysis was conducted using female-specific summary statistics from large genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and a cohort of 3577 European American women (966 PTSD cases and 2611 traumaexposed controls). We applied a high-resolution polygenic score approach and Mendelian randomization analysis to investigate genetic correlations and causal relationships.
Results: We observed an inverse association of PTSD with genetically determined anthropometric traits related to body shape, independent of body mass index (BMI). The top association was related to BMI-adjusted waist circumference (WCadj; R=-0.079, P <0.001, Q = 0.011). We estimated a relative decrease of 64.6% (95% confidence interval = 27.5-82.7) in the risk of PTSD per 1-SD increase in WCadj. MR-Egger regression intercept analysis showed no evidence of pleiotropic effects in this association (P-pleiotropy = 0.979). We also observed associations of genetically determined WCadj with age at first sexual intercourse and number of sexual partners (P = 0.013 and P <0.001, respectively).
Conclusions: There is a putative causal relationship between genetically determined female body shape and PTSD, which could be mediated by evolutionary mechanisms involved in human sexual behaviors.