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Socioenvironmental Adversity and Adolescent Psychotic Experiences: Exploring Potential Mechanisms in a UK Longitudinal Cohort

Schizophr Bull. 2023 Mar 19:sbad017. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbad017. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESIS: Children exposed to socioenvironmental adversities (eg, urbanicity, pollution, neighborhood deprivation, crime, and family disadvantage) are more likely to subsequently develop subclinical psychotic experiences during adolescence (eg, hearing voices, paranoia). However, the pathways through which this occurs have not been previously investigated. We hypothesized that cognitive ability and inflammation would partly explain this association.

STUDY DESIGN: Data were utilized from the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a cohort of 2232 children born in 1994-1995 in England and Wales and followed to age 18. Socioenvironmental adversities were measured from birth to age 10 and classified into physical risk (defined by high urbanicity and air pollution) and socioeconomic risk (defined by high neighborhood deprivation, neighborhood disorder, and family disadvantage). Cognitive abilities (overall, crystallized, fluid, and working memory) were assessed at age 12; and inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor) were measured at age 18 from blood samples. Participants were interviewed at age 18 regarding psychotic experiences.

STUDY RESULTS: Higher physical risk and socioeconomic risk were associated with increased odds of psychotic experiences in adolescence. The largest mediation pathways were from socioeconomic risk via overall cognitive ability and crystallized ability, which accounted for ~11% and ~19% of the association with psychotic experiences, respectively. No statistically significant pathways were found via inflammatory markers in exploratory (partially cross-sectional) analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive ability, especially crystallized ability, may partly explain the association between childhood socioenvironmental adversity and adolescent psychotic experiences. Interventions to support cognitive development among children living in disadvantaged settings could buffer them against developing subclinical psychotic phenomena.

PMID:36934309 | DOI:10.1093/schbul/sbad017

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