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A history of childhood adversity is associated with psychotic disorder, with an increase in risk according to the number of exposures. However, it is not known why only some exposed individuals go on to develop psychosis. One possibility is pre-existing polygenic vulnerability. Here, we investigated, in the largest sample of first-episode psychosis (FEP) cases to date, whether childhood adversity and high polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia (SZ-PRS) combine synergistically to increase the risk of psychosis, over and above the effect of each alone.
We assigned a schizophrenia-polygenic risk score (SZ-PRS), calculated from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC2), to all participants in a sample of 384 FEP patients and 690 controls from the case–control component of the EU-GEI study. Only participants of European ancestry were included in the study. A history of childhood adversity was collected using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Synergistic effects were estimated using the interaction contrast ratio (ICR) [odds ratio (OR)exposure and PRS − ORexposure − ORPRS + 1] with adjustment for potential confounders.
There was some evidence that the combined effect of childhood adversities and polygenic risk was greater than the sum of each alone, as indicated by an ICR greater than zero [i.e. ICR 1.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) −1.29 to 3.85]. Examining subtypes of childhood adversities, the strongest synergetic effect was observed for physical abuse (ICR 6.25, 95% CI −6.25 to 20.88).
Our findings suggest possible synergistic effects of genetic liability and childhood adversity experiences in the onset of FEP, but larger samples are needed to increase precision of estimates.
Perceived discrimination is associated with worse mental health. Few studies have assessed whether perceived discrimination (i) is associated with the risk of psychotic disorders and (ii) contributes to an increased risk among minority ethnic groups relative to the ethnic majority.
We used data from the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions Work Package 2, a population-based case−control study of incident psychotic disorders in 17 catchment sites across six countries. We calculated odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for the associations between perceived discrimination and psychosis using mixed-effects logistic regression models. We used stratified and mediation analyses to explore differences for minority ethnic groups.
Reporting any perceived experience of major discrimination (e.g. unfair treatment by police, not getting hired) was higher in cases than controls (41.8% v. 34.2%). Pervasive experiences of discrimination (≥3 types) were also higher in cases than controls (11.3% v. 5.5%). In fully adjusted models, the odds of psychosis were 1.20 (95% CI 0.91–1.59) for any discrimination and 1.79 (95% CI 1.19–1.59) for pervasive discrimination compared with no discrimination. In stratified analyses, the magnitude of association for pervasive experiences of discrimination appeared stronger for minority ethnic groups (OR = 1.73, 95% CI 1.12–2.68) than the ethnic majority (OR = 1.42, 95% CI 0.65–3.10). In exploratory mediation analysis, pervasive discrimination minimally explained excess risk among minority ethnic groups (5.1%).
Pervasive experiences of discrimination are associated with slightly increased odds of psychotic disorders and may minimally help explain excess risk for minority ethnic groups.
Psychosis rates are higher among some migrant groups. We hypothesized that psychosis in migrants is associated with cumulative social disadvantage during different phases of migration.
We used data from the EUropean Network of National Schizophrenia Networks studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) case–control study. We defined a set of three indicators of social disadvantage for each phase: pre-migration, migration and post-migration. We examined whether social disadvantage in the pre- and post-migration phases, migration adversities, and mismatch between achievements and expectations differed between first-generation migrants with first-episode psychosis and healthy first-generation migrants, and tested whether this accounted for differences in odds of psychosis in multivariable logistic regression models.
In total, 249 cases and 219 controls were assessed. Pre-migration (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.06–2.44, p = 0.027) and post-migration social disadvantages (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.02–3.51, p = 0.044), along with expectations/achievements mismatch (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.03–1.26, p = 0.014) were all significantly associated with psychosis. Migration adversities (OR 1.18, 95% CI 0.672–2.06, p = 0.568) were not significantly related to the outcome. Finally, we found a dose–response effect between the number of adversities across all phases and odds of psychosis (⩾6: OR 14.09, 95% CI 2.06–96.47, p = 0.007).
The cumulative effect of social disadvantages before, during and after migration was associated with increased odds of psychosis in migrants, independently of ethnicity or length of stay in the country of arrival. Public health initiatives that address the social disadvantages that many migrants face during the whole migration process and post-migration psychological support may reduce the excess of psychosis in migrants.
First episode psychosis (FEP) patients who use cannabis experience more frequent psychotic and euphoric intoxication experiences compared to controls. It is not clear whether this is consequent to patients being more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis use or to their heavier pattern of use. We aimed to determine whether extent of use predicted psychotic-like and euphoric intoxication experiences in patients and controls and whether this differs between groups.
We analysed data on patients who had ever used cannabis (n = 655) and controls who had ever used cannabis (n = 654) across 15 sites from six countries in the EU-GEI study (2010–2015). We used multiple regression to model predictors of cannabis-induced experiences and to determine if there was an interaction between caseness and extent of use.
Caseness, frequency of cannabis use and money spent on cannabis predicted psychotic-like and euphoric experiences (p ⩽ 0.001). For psychotic-like experiences (PEs) there was a significant interaction for caseness × frequency of use (p < 0.001) and caseness × money spent on cannabis (p = 0.001) such that FEP patients had increased experiences at increased levels of use compared to controls. There was no significant interaction for euphoric experiences (p > 0.5).
FEP patients are particularly sensitive to increased psychotic-like, but not euphoric experiences, at higher levels of cannabis use compared to controls. This suggests a specific psychotomimetic response in FEP patients related to heavy cannabis use. Clinicians should enquire regarding cannabis related PEs and advise that lower levels of cannabis use are associated with less frequent PEs.
The ‘jumping to conclusions’ (JTC) bias is associated with both psychosis and general cognition but their relationship is unclear. In this study, we set out to clarify the relationship between the JTC bias, IQ, psychosis and polygenic liability to schizophrenia and IQ.
A total of 817 first episode psychosis patients and 1294 population-based controls completed assessments of general intelligence (IQ), and JTC, and provided blood or saliva samples from which we extracted DNA and computed polygenic risk scores for IQ and schizophrenia.
The estimated proportion of the total effect of case/control differences on JTC mediated by IQ was 79%. Schizophrenia polygenic risk score was non-significantly associated with a higher number of beads drawn (B = 0.47, 95% CI −0.21 to 1.16, p = 0.17); whereas IQ PRS (B = 0.51, 95% CI 0.25–0.76, p < 0.001) significantly predicted the number of beads drawn, and was thus associated with reduced JTC bias. The JTC was more strongly associated with the higher level of psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in controls, including after controlling for IQ (B = −1.7, 95% CI −2.8 to −0.5, p = 0.006), but did not relate to delusions in patients.
Our findings suggest that the JTC reasoning bias in psychosis might not be a specific cognitive deficit but rather a manifestation or consequence, of general cognitive impairment. Whereas, in the general population, the JTC bias is related to PLEs, independent of IQ. The work has the potential to inform interventions targeting cognitive biases in early psychosis.
Daily use of high-potency cannabis has been reported to carry a high risk for developing a psychotic disorder. However, the evidence is mixed on whether any pattern of cannabis use is associated with a particular symptomatology in first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
We analysed data from 901 FEP patients and 1235 controls recruited across six countries, as part of the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. We used item response modelling to estimate two bifactor models, which included general and specific dimensions of psychotic symptoms in patients and psychotic experiences in controls. The associations between these dimensions and cannabis use were evaluated using linear mixed-effects models analyses.
In patients, there was a linear relationship between the positive symptom dimension and the extent of lifetime exposure to cannabis, with daily users of high-potency cannabis having the highest score (B = 0.35; 95% CI 0.14–0.56). Moreover, negative symptoms were more common among patients who never used cannabis compared with those with any pattern of use (B = −0.22; 95% CI −0.37 to −0.07). In controls, psychotic experiences were associated with current use of cannabis but not with the extent of lifetime use. Neither patients nor controls presented differences in depressive dimension related to cannabis use.
Our findings provide the first large-scale evidence that FEP patients with a history of daily use of high-potency cannabis present with more positive and less negative symptoms, compared with those who never used cannabis or used low-potency types.
Ethnic minority groups in Western countries face an increased risk of psychotic disorders. Causes of this long-standing public health inequality remain poorly understood. We investigated whether social disadvantage, linguistic distance and discrimination contributed to these patterns.
We used case–control data from the EUropean network of national schizophrenia networks studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study, carried out in 16 centres in six countries. We recruited 1130 cases and 1497 population-based controls. Our main outcome measure was first-episode ICD-10 psychotic disorder (F20–F33), and exposures were ethnicity (white majority, black, mixed, Asian, North-African, white minority and other), generational status, social disadvantage, linguistic distance and discrimination. Age, sex, paternal age, cannabis use, childhood trauma and parental history of psychosis were included as a priori confounders. Exposures and confounders were added sequentially to multivariable logistic models, following multiple imputation for missing data.
Participants from any ethnic minority background had crude excess odds of psychosis [odds ratio (OR) 2.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.69–2.43], which remained after adjustment for confounders (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.31–1.98). This was progressively attenuated following further adjustment for social disadvantage (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.22–1.89) and linguistic distance (OR 1.22, 95% CI 0.95–1.57), a pattern mirrored in several specific ethnic groups. Linguistic distance and social disadvantage had stronger effects for first- and later-generation groups, respectively.
Social disadvantage and linguistic distance, two potential markers of sociocultural exclusion, were associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder, and adjusting for these led to equivocal risk between several ethnic minority groups and the white majority.
It is well established that migration and ethnic minority status are risk factors for psychotic disorders. Recent studies have aimed to determine if they are also associated with subclinical psychosis (psychotic-like experiences and schizotypal traits).
We aimed to determine to what extent migrant and ethnic minority groups are associated with higher risk of subclinical psychosis.
We conducted a systematic review, using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement, and examined findings by ethnicity, migrant status, outcomes of subclinical psychosis and host country. A meta-analysis was carried out with robust variance estimation where possible, to handle statistically dependent effect size estimates.
We included 28 studies (19 studies on psychotic-like experiences and 9 studies on schizotypal traits) and found that ethnicity, but not migrant status, was associated with current and lifetime psychotic-like experiences. In the narrative analysis, we observed the effect of psychosocial risk factors on this association: Black ethnicity groups showed consistent increased prevalence of current and lifetime psychotic-like experiences compared with the reference population across countries.
More generalisable and standardised cohort studies of psychotic-like experiences and schizotypal traits in relation to migration/ethnicity are necessary to examine the effects of exposures and outcomes in different contexts, and to understand the underlying mechanisms of the association between subclinical psychosis and migrant and ethnic minority status.
The value of the nosological distinction between non-affective and affective psychosis has frequently been challenged. We aimed to investigate the transdiagnostic dimensional structure and associated characteristics of psychopathology at First Episode Psychosis (FEP). Regardless of diagnostic categories, we expected that positive symptoms occurred more frequently in ethnic minority groups and in more densely populated environments, and that negative symptoms were associated with indices of neurodevelopmental impairment.
This study included 2182 FEP individuals recruited across six countries, as part of the EUropean network of national schizophrenia networks studying Gene–Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. Symptom ratings were analysed using multidimensional item response modelling in Mplus to estimate five theory-based models of psychosis. We used multiple regression models to examine demographic and context factors associated with symptom dimensions.
A bifactor model, composed of one general factor and five specific dimensions of positive, negative, disorganization, manic and depressive symptoms, best-represented associations among ratings of psychotic symptoms. Positive symptoms were more common in ethnic minority groups. Urbanicity was associated with a higher score on the general factor. Men presented with more negative and less depressive symptoms than women. Early age-at-first-contact with psychiatric services was associated with higher scores on negative, disorganized, and manic symptom dimensions.
Our results suggest that the bifactor model of psychopathology holds across diagnostic categories of non-affective and affective psychosis at FEP, and demographic and context determinants map onto general and specific symptom dimensions. These findings have implications for tailoring symptom-specific treatments and inform research into the mood-psychosis spectrum.
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