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The role of genetic liability in the association of urbanicity at birth and during upbringing with schizophrenia in Denmark

  • D. Paksarian (a1), B. B. Trabjerg (a2) (a3) (a4), K. R. Merikangas (a1), O. Mors (a3) (a5), A. D. Børglum (a3) (a5) (a6), D. M. Hougaard (a7), J. J. McGrath (a2) (a8), C. B. Pedersen (a2) (a3) (a4), P. B. Mortensen (a2) (a3) (a4) and E. Agerbo (a2) (a3) (a4)...

Abstract

Background

Studies have indicated that the association of urbanicity at birth and during upbringing with schizophrenia may be driven by familial factors such as genetic liability. We used a population-based nested case–control study to assess whether polygenic risk score (PRS) for schizophrenia was associated with urbanicity at birth and at age 15, and to assess whether PRS and parental history of mental disorder together explained the association between urbanicity and schizophrenia.

Methods

Data were drawn from Danish population registries. Cases born since 1981 and diagnosed with schizophrenia between 1994 and 2009 were matched to controls with the same sex and birthdate (1549 pairs). Genome-wide data were obtained from the Danish Neonatal Screening Biobank and PRSs were calculated based on results of a separate, large meta-analysis.

Results

Those with higher PRS were more likely reside in the capital compared with rural areas at age 15 [odds ratio (OR) 1.19, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01–1.40], but not at birth (OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.95–1.26). Adjustment for PRS produced almost no change in relative risks of schizophrenia associated with urbanicity at birth, but slightly attenuated those for urban residence at age 15. Additional adjustment for parental history led to slight attenuation of relative risks for urbanicity at birth [incidence rate ratio (IRR) for birth in capital = 1.54, 95% CI 1.18–2.02; overall p = 0.016] and further attenuation of relative risks for urbanicity at age 15 (IRR for residence in capital = 1.32, 95% CI 0.97–1.78; overall p = 0.148).

Conclusions

While results regarding urbanicity during upbringing were somewhat equivocal, genetic liability as measured here does not appear to explain the association between urbanicity at birth and schizophrenia.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: D. Paksarian, Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, 35A Convent Drive, MSC#3720, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. (Email: diana.paksarian@nih.gov)

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