Severe mental illness - depression, bipolar and psychotic disorders - imposes a heavy burden on patients, and is among the leading causes of disability worldwide. Mental illness comes with a high risk of comorbidities such as (excessive) substance use and cardiovascular disease. Both comorbidities play an important role in reducing quality of life and life expectancy in people with psychiatric disorders.
Cause and effect
Whether substance use and cardiovascular disease emerge before or after the psychiatric disorders is surprisingly unclear. Dr. Jorien Treur, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry, will use the ERC grant to investigate this question with innovative statistical methods. Using data from large genetic biobanks and traditional cohort studies, such as the HELIUS cohort in Amsterdam, and innovative statistical methods, she can study whether there is a genetic predisposition explaining the bidirectional relationship between substance use and cardiovascular disease with psychiatric disorders. Moreover, she hopes to determine whether this relationship is causal and possibly based on shared risk factors. She plans to implement her research results directly in clinical practice to improve treatment for people with psychiatric disorders.
Mental illness disproportionally affects people of non-European descent. Many ongoing studies overwhelmingly consist of white participants; only recently are such study populations becoming more diverse (e.g. the multi-ethnic HELIUS cohort). Treur takes ethnicity into account in her research, as knowledge of mental illness in ethnic minorities is still far behind.
European Research Council
The ERC, part of the European Commission, awards grants to a select number of excellent scientists. In 2022, 408 researchers will receive a Starting Grant, totaling 636 million euros. The ERC Starting Grant is part of the Horizon Europe program, helping young scientists start their own projects, form teams and implement their most promising ideas.
More information about the ERC: ERC 2022