About the GAYA Study

Youth using smartphoneAnxiety disorders can significantly interfere with youth's lives, so it is important to better understand how and why these disorders develop through mechanisms like genetics. To better understand the development of anxiety disorders among youth, we need to include larger samples of youth in current genetic research. The GAYA study represents a Pan-Canadian effort of clinical and genetic experts with recruitment sites in Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Toronto, and Halifax. The study is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. Through this study, we aim to recruit 13,000 youth across Canada, which will provide us with valuable information about how genetics impact anxiety. 

We hope this research will help identify genetic risks for anxiety disorders in youth and assess how much of this risk is shared between youth and adults. We will also explore whether youth with a higher or lower genetic risk respond differently to treatment and how to best support them. A better understanding of the genetic risk factors for anxiety disorders could potentially lead to early detection, better treatments, and improved outcomes for Canadian youth. 

What are genes? How are they relevant?

Genes are the building blocks of the human body. They help decide all the different characteristics that make people unique. For example, they help decide our hair colour, how tall we are, and even how we think and behave. This study aims to learn about how genes can lead to anxiety in youth. Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of anxiety disorders. Recent studies successfully identified the first genetic risks for anxiety disorders in adults. However, these genetic risks for anxiety may not be same for youth as for adults. 

Why is this study important?

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem among youth, with about 11% of Canadian youth suffering from an anxiety disorder annually. Over the last three decades, a steep increase in the prevalence of anxiety disorders has been observed. This trend is likely to continue, especially in light of the recent pandemic.

What does the study involve?

Participants in the GAYA study will complete questionnaires online, provide a DNA saliva sample, and play two phone games on the GAYA app. You can complete this study entirely at home if you wish, and you will be able to complete the study in less than 45 minutes. Click the button below to learn more about the study process. 

GAYA Study Process

Are there any risks from the GAYA study?

Answering questions on mental well-being may make you feel uncomfortable. If you do not like some of the questions, you have the option to skip these questions. Participants will also be provided with a list of local mental health resources. 

You may experience minimal discomfort (dry mouth) while you give us a spit sample. While your questionnaire and app data will be de-identified, your genetic information can never be fully de-identified. We work with our research ethics boards to ensure that we take every precaution to protect your identity and your data. However, as technology is so rapidly advancing in genetics, there may be a risk that the genetic information in the samples could be linked back to you. While this is very unlikely at this time, such a link back to you may be more likely in the future.