Department of Economics and Business Economics

Childhood infections and schizophrenia: the impact of parental SES and mental illness, and childhood adversities

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Childhood infection has been proposed as an important etiologic factor for schizophrenia. However, it is unclear to what extent the association between childhood infection and schizophrenia is confounded by parental socioeconomic status and mental illness, and childhood adversity, and whether the association is explained by familial liability for infections. We used a historical, population-based cohort design, selecting all singletons born in Denmark between 1981 and 1998 (n = 882,813). We identified exposure to infection as having been hospitalized with an infection in the Danish national registers. Data from a range of population-based registers were used to construct a childhood adversity index. The index included the following adversities: family disruption, parental incarceration, parental chronic somatic disease, death of a parent, parent permanently outside of workforce, childhood abuse and placement in out-of-home care. We also assessed parental socioeconomic status and mental illness. Multiple admissions with infections during childhood increased the risk of schizophrenia with an Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR) of 1.28 (95% CI: 1.19-1.38) for 1 infection to an IRR of 1.43 (95% CI: 1.30-1.58) for 2-3 infections and an IRR of 1.95 (95% CI: 1.66-2.29) for ≥4 infections. Parental socioeconomic status and mental illness, and childhood adversities increased the odds of acquiring childhood infections and was associated with schizophrenia, but did not explain the results. Similarly did familial liability for infection increase the risk of schizophrenia, but did not explain the association between infection and schizophrenia. Parental mental health modified the association between childhood infection and schizophrenia (p-value 0.02), and we found no significant effect of childhood infection in those with propensity for psychotic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume81
Pages (from-to) 341-347
Number of pages7
ISSN0889-1591
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Childhood adversity, Childhood infection, Epidemiology, Schizophrenia, Sibling controls, Socioeconomic status

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