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The base rate of transition from subthreshold psychotic experiences (the exposure) to clinical psychotic disorder (the outcome) in unselected, representative and non-help-seeking population-based samples is unknown.
A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted of representative, longitudinal population-based cohorts with baseline assessment of subthreshold psychotic experiences and follow-up assessment of psychotic and non-psychotic clinical outcomes.
Six cohorts were identified with a 3–24-year follow-up of baseline subthreshold self-reported psychotic experiences. The yearly risk of conversion to a clinical psychotic outcome in exposed individuals (0.56%) was 3.5 times higher than for individuals without psychotic experiences (0.16%) and there was meta-analytic evidence of dose–response with severity/persistence of psychotic experiences. Individual studies also suggest a role for motivational impairment and social dysfunction. The evidence for conversion to non-psychotic outcome was weaker, although findings were similar in direction.
Subthreshold self-reported psychotic experiences in epidemiological non-help-seeking samples index psychometric risk for psychotic disorder, with strong modifier effects of severity/persistence. These data can serve as the population reference for selected and variable samples of help-seeking individuals at ultra-high risk, for whom much higher transition rates have been indicated.