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Evidence suggests that environmental factors not only increase psychosis liability but also influence the prognosis and outcomes of psychotic disorders. We investigated temporal and cross-sectional associations of a weighted score of cumulative environmental liability for schizophrenia – the exposome score for schizophrenia (ES-SCZ) – with functioning in first-episode psychosis (FEP).
Data were derived from the baseline and 1-month assessments of the Athens FEP Research Study that enrolled 225 individuals with FEP. The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) and the Personal and Social Performance Scale (PSP) were used to measure social, occupational, and psychological functioning. The ES-SCZ was calculated based on the previously validated method.
ES-SCZ was associated with the total scores of GAF and PSP at baseline and 1-month assessments. These findings remained significant when accounting for several associated alternative explanatory variables, including other environmental factors (obstetric complications, migration, ethnic minority), clinical characteristics (duration of untreated psychosis, symptom severity, previous antipsychotic use), and family history of psychosis, demonstrating that the association between ES-SCZ and functioning is over and above other risk factors and cannot be explained by symptom severity alone. Functioning improved from baseline to 1-month assessment, but no significant ES-SCZ-by-time interaction was found on functioning, indicating that functioning changes were not contingent on ES-SCZ.
Our findings suggest that rather than a predictor of functional improvement, ES-SCZ represents a stable severity indicator that captures poor functioning in early psychosis. Environmental risk loading for schizophrenia (ES-SCZ) can be beneficial for clinical characterization and incorporated into transdiagnostic staging models.
Premorbid adjustment (PA) abnormalities in psychotic disorders are associated with an earlier age at onset (AAO) and unfavorable clinical outcomes, including treatment resistance. Prior family studies suggest that familial liability, likely reflecting increased genetic risk, and socioeconomic status (SES) contribute to premorbid maladjustment. However, their joint effect possibly indicating gene–environment interaction has not been evaluated.
We examined whether family history of psychosis (FHP) and parental SES may predict PA and AAO in unrelated cases with first-episode psychosis (n = 108) and schizophrenia (n = 104). Premorbid academic and social functioning domains during childhood and early adolescence were retrospectively assessed. Regression analyses were performed to investigate main effects of FHP and parental SES, as well as their interaction. The relationships between PA, AAO, and response to antipsychotic medication were also explored.
Positive FHP associated with academic PA difficulties and importantly interacted with parental SES to moderate social PA during childhood (interaction p = 0.024). Positive FHP and parental SES did not predict differences in AAO. Nevertheless, an earlier AAO was observed among cases with worse social PA in childhood (β = −0.20; p = 0.005) and early adolescence (β = −0.19; p = 0.007). Further, confirming evidence emerged for an association between deficient childhood social PA and poor treatment response (p = 0.04).
Familial risk for psychosis may interact with parental socioeconomic position influencing social PA in childhood. In addition, this study supports the link between social PA deviations, early psychosis onset, and treatment resistance, which highlights premorbid social functioning as a promising clinical indicator.
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