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Previous work has identified associations between psychotic experiences (PEs) and general medical conditions (GMCs), but their temporal direction remains unclear as does the extent to which they are independent of comorbid mental disorders.
In total, 28 002 adults in 16 countries from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys were assessed for PEs, GMCs and 21 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) mental disorders. Discrete-time survival analyses were used to estimate the associations between PEs and GMCs with various adjustments.
After adjustment for comorbid mental disorders, temporally prior PEs were significantly associated with subsequent onset of 8/12 GMCs (arthritis, back or neck pain, frequent or severe headache, other chronic pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and peptic ulcer) with odds ratios (ORs) ranging from 1.3 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–1.5] to 1.9 (95% CI 1.4–2.4). In contrast, only three GMCs (frequent or severe headache, other chronic pain and asthma) were significantly associated with subsequent onset of PEs after adjustment for comorbid GMCs and mental disorders, with ORs ranging from 1.5 (95% CI 1.2–1.9) to 1.7 (95% CI 1.2–2.4).
PEs were associated with the subsequent onset of a wide range of GMCs, independent of comorbid mental disorders. There were also associations between some medical conditions (particularly those involving chronic pain) and subsequent PEs. Although these findings will need to be confirmed in prospective studies, clinicians should be aware that psychotic symptoms may be risk markers for a wide range of adverse health outcomes. Whether PEs are causal risk factors will require further research.
The patterns of comorbidity among mental disorders have led researchers to model the underlying structure of psychopathology. While studies have suggested a structure including internalizing and externalizing disorders, less is known with regard to the cross-national stability of this model. Moreover, little data are available on the placement of eating disorders, bipolar disorder and psychotic experiences (PEs) in this structure.
We evaluated the structure of mental disorders with data from the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview, including 15 lifetime mental disorders and six PEs. Respondents (n = 5478–15 499) were included from 10 high-, middle- and lower middle-income countries across the world aged 18 years or older. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were used to evaluate and compare the fit of different factor structures to the lifetime disorder data. Measurement invariance was evaluated with multigroup CFA (MG-CFA).
A second-order model with internalizing and externalizing factors and fear and distress subfactors best described the structure of common mental disorders. MG-CFA showed that this model was stable across countries. Of the uncommon disorders, bipolar disorder and eating disorder were best grouped with the internalizing factor, and PEs with a separate factor.
These results indicate that cross-national patterns of lifetime common mental-disorder comorbidity can be explained with a second-order underlying structure that is stable across countries and can be extended to also cover less common mental disorders.
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