Department of Economics and Business Economics

School performance and genetic propensities for educational attainment and depression in the etiology of self-harm: a Danish population-based study

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  • Holger J Sørensen, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus.
  • ,
  • Sussie Antonsen, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus.
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  • Michael E Benros, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus., Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health -CORE, 1Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark. 3University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 4Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Annette Erlangsen, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus., Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health -CORE, 1Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark. 3University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 4Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark., Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Department of Mental Health Vejle, Mental Health Services in the Region of Southern Denmark, Vejle, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, The Park Centre for Mental Health, Richlands, 4076, Queensland, Australia., Australian Natl Univ, Australian National University, Sch Archaeol & Anthropol
  • ,
  • Clara Albiñana
  • Merete Nordentoft, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus.
  • ,
  • Anders D Børglum
  • Ole Mors
  • Thomas Werge, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus.
  • ,
  • Preben B Mortensen
  • David Hougaard, Departments of Biomedicine, Aarhus; iSEQ, Centre for Integrative Sequencing, Aarhus; iPSYCH, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research, Aarhus.
  • ,
  • Roger T Webb, The University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom; The Children's Brain Tumour Research Network, University of Manchester, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, United Kingdom.
  • ,
  • Esben Agerbo

BACKGROUND: Poor school performance is linked to higher risks of self-harm. The association might be explained through genetic liabilities for depression or educational attainment. We investigated the association between school performance and self-harm in a population-based sample while assessing the potential influence of polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for depression (PRSMDD) and for educational attainment (PRSEDU).

METHOD: We conducted a follow-up study of individuals born 1987-98 and followed from age 18 until 2016. The total sample consisted of a case group (23,779 diagnosed with mental disorders; schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a randomly sampled comparison group (n = 10,925). Genome-wide data were obtained from the Neonatal Screening Biobank and information on school performance, family psychiatric history, and socioeconomic status from national administrative registers.

RESULTS: Individuals in the top PRSMDD decile were at higher self-harm risk in the case group (IRR: 1.30; 95% CI 1.15-1.46), whereas individuals in the top PRSEDU decile were at lower self-harm risk (IRR: 0.63; 95% CI: 0.55-0.74). Poorer school performance was associated with higher self-harm risk in persons diagnosed with any mental disorder (IRR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.44-1.99) and among the comparison group (IRR: 7.93; 95% CI: 4.47-15.18). Observed effects of PRSMDD and PRSEDU on self-harm risk were strongest for individuals with poor school performance.

CONCLUSION: Associations between PRSMDD and self-harm risk and between PRSEDU and self-harm risk were found. Nevertheless, these polygenic scores seem currently of limited clinical utility for identifying individuals at high self-harm risk.

Original languageEnglish
Book seriesNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
ISSN0803-9496
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2022

    Research areas

  • School-performance, linkage data, mental disorders, polygenic risk scores, self-harm

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