Recent studies suggest psychotic and eating disorders can be comorbid and could have shared genetic liability. However, this comorbidity has been overlooked in the epidemiological literature.
To test whether polygenic risk scores (PRS) for schizophrenia are associated with disordered eating behaviours and body mass index (BMI) in the general population.
Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and random-effects logistic and linear regression models, we investigated the association between PRS for schizophrenia and self-reported disordered eating behaviours (binge eating, purging, fasting and excessive exercise) and BMI at 14, 16 and 18 years.
Of the 6920 children with available genetic data, 4473 (64.6%) and 5069 (73.3%) had at least one disordered eating and one BMI outcome measurement, respectively. An s.d. increase in PRS was associated with greater odds of having binge eating behaviours (odds ratio, 1.36; 95% CI 1.16–1.60) and lower BMI (coefficient, −0.03; 95% CI, −0.06 to −0.01).
Our findings suggest the presence of shared genetic risk between schizophrenia and binge eating behaviours. Intermediate phenotypes such as impaired social cognition and irritability, previously shown to be positively correlated in this sample with schizophrenia PRS, could represent risk factors for both phenotypes. Shared genetic liability between binge eating and schizophrenia could also explain higher rates of metabolic syndrome in individuals with schizophrenia, as binge eating could be a mediator of this association in drug-naïve individuals. The finding of an association between greater PRS and lower BMI, although consistent with existing epidemiological and genetic literature, requires further investigation.
Declaration of interest